The Battle Being Waged Against Our Children

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As we make our way through this season of Lent we have been reminded in a much too familiar way of the evilness that thrives in our world…We have been reminded that there is in fact a battle being raged for the souls of our children...Conspiracy theories or not, we have come to the ugly reality that there is evil in the world…It has long ago arrived, and it is coming to steal the lives of our loved ones…coming to steal the lives of our families and children.

With ashes still fresh on our foreheads, we watched as the carnage unfolded… and when all the commotion settled down, seventeen people had lost their lives. There are many details that remain unclear, and there are many unusual circumstances surrounding the way the events played out. We may never know the reasons behind the shooting that happened last week, but we do know that at the end of the day seventeen people were dead … We may never know who actually pulled the trigger, or if there was in fact more than one shooter, but what we do know, is that the devil, in his clever devise, released his toxic breath upon the people of Parkland Florida… and then using our immersion in the culture of death against us, once again, he destroyed what rightly belongs to God.

There is more than one dimension to the lies, for as if on cue, the major news outlets started spewing the same mantra that they always do, aiding to the division, stirring the pot of chaos… Almost immediately, those who care nothing for our safety or the safety of our children started calling for stricter gun laws…demanding that ‘something be done...’ We all know what that phrase means…they would like to see the rights of Americans to protect themselves ripped from the Constitutional pages of this great land…  As if somehow that would put an end to the violence… as if somehow that would stop the monsters that are waiting to devour our children. Eating them from the inside out. But it won’t.

Our society as a whole is suffering. We have removed God from every aspect of our lives. We have been raising our children in godless homes where there is no right or wrong … And when it comes to our behavior, we have been teaching them to embrace the lies of the devil … we’ve created an anything goes kind of society. We have abandoned the Truth and our sense of morality. We have replaced our moral compass with one that  changes with the winds of time and then act as if we are shocked  and dismayed at the resulting carnage.

We have turned away from the Truth that Christ taught us about God, and about His laws for how we are to live, specifically how we are to treat one another.  His laws are the very foundations that this country was built upon... But we are fallen. We have twisted the reality of God and the devil and unfortunately by denying the Truth of their existence, we have robbed our children of their innocence in more ways than one. In a way we have given our children over to the devil and his plan. These killing fields show us that he desires their souls and he has come to claim them as his own…The war has been raged and it will be a battle in the spiritual realm… For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but ….against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(Ephesians6:12)

Unfortunately, when this kind of violence erupts, it is the same outcries over and over. Everyone claims they want an answer…everyone claims they want all this senseless killing to end…and yet, the solutions they provide are not solutions at all. The vast majority of these people refuse to acknowledge that this is not a problem of guns….Sure, guns are a part of it…but from what I have seen of all of these killers….is their fascination with violence. Even this young man’s social media accounts… were rift with all kinds of violence.

Like all of the others who have done these horrible killings, he was a sick young man with a twisted fascination with the culture of death… His language…his posts, all show a deep lack of human decency and respect. His social media posts seemed to boast of his anger and his hatred, and even though many people looked at his posts and commented on what he said, they failed to see the evil that was on public display… and many did nothing about it. But even when someone did alert the authorities, they dropped the ball and didn’t even check him out. It is so bizarre, but unfortunately,  it is a story so familiar in more ways than one...

Our once Christian nation  now brags of her evil ways…and the laws that had been put in place as a safe guard for the people, have been changed. These laws now fail to protect the most vulnerable among us…the unborn, the infirm…and the elderly. There are people being killed every day across this great nation. Most of these murders are promoted under the guise of care and compassion. These murders now enjoy a special protection from a court system that regrettably has fallen under the grasp of diabolical men. Men who promote abortion and euthanasia as ways of dealing with the unwanted…the outcast….

This culture of death, is like diseased flesh…and it is spreading. Our young people are being raised with no sense of sanctity for human life…The sacredness of the human soul does not matter to those who regulate and pass our laws… and this same lack of sacredness is being passed into the broken homes and the broken children who are being raised there. In our pride of being able to control ourselves without the laws of God, our society has managed to slide down into the land where decency has lost the upper edge and morals and values are in quick decay. We don’t want to judge anyone..but that doesn’t mean that we must sit by and watch the wrong being done without doing something…without praying against this evil that is everywhere…

Well, I just had to voice my two cents. This is going to be a tough battle for us all. Our freedoms depend on it. In essence our lives depend on it. New gun laws won’t protect our children. New gun laws won’t keep us safe. As a nation, we need to repent and return to God what is rightly His. And we need to start recognizing that evil is real. That the devil is real. And he’s coming for our children. With or without guns.

One more thing, when we talk about sending our prayers and our thoughts to the victims…well, our thoughts won’t do anything for them, unless they prompt us into some sort of action. Prayers on the other hand, can do so much more! But first, we must turn away from whatever separates us from God, then with a humble and contrite heart we should fall on our knees before the Lord… seeking His mercy and trusting in His Ways…Carrying our burdens before Him…carrying these families and these victims to Him, praying for their burdens to be lifted…praying for His consolation to wash over them and bring them comfort. Let us also pray that one day our country…this great nation of our will once again humble itself before the Lord seeking forgiveness for our past transgressions and seeking His Light in all of our days. And contrary to what the news media is saying…our prayers will help…our prayers will bring healing…. we just have to believe again.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chron. 7:14

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He choose for His inheritance.” Ps. 33:12

 

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Stations of the Cross During Lent

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As we get a good foothold in these Lenten days, we are beginning to understand that these days have been set aside by the Holy Mother Church as a time for  conversion, as a time to make amends. It is a period of days set apart from the ordinary, so as to give us a chance to leave the hustle of the world outside and step into the quite of the Church…to focus on our return to God. It is  a time to step into the quite embrace of Our Lord.

Lent and all the practices contained therein are an opportunity for us to be transformed as we are transported to the Lord’s suffering and Passion. It is a humbling experience as we reflect on the nature of sin… on the nature of our sin. There is perhaps no better way to immerse ourselves in the reality of Christ’s sacrifice than to take part in the ‘Stations of the Cross’ or ‘The Way of the Cross.’

As early as the 4th century, Christians were making pilgrimages to the Holy Land so they could walk the path that Our Blessed Lord walked as He made His way to Golgotha… as He made His Way for our salvation. But when Jerusalem fell into the hands of Muslims, to make this journey became very dangerous and then when people moved away to foreign lands they developed replicas of these “stations,” so they could pray the devotion without having to travel to the Holy Land. This devotion was referred to as either ‘Stations of the Cross’ or the ‘Way of the Cross.’

Since Lent is a time for prayer and conversion, the Church has said that anyone who practices this devotion on the Fridays of Lent can receive a plenary indulgence, as long as certain conditions are met. This means that the faithful should strive to worthily receive Holy Communion, as well as participate in the Stations of the Cross. This can be done with the community or it may be done privately at home. But one must say prayers and meditate upon each of the fourteen stations. Another condition for the indulgence is confession. You must go to confession within 20 days of praying the Stations of the Cross. These plenary indulgences remit all temporal punishment due to personal sin. But just as a side not, if there is any attachment to sin...even if it is just venial, the indulgence will just be a partial one. Regardless, it is an awesome opportunity for the Faithful to make amends and convert our hearts back to the Lord.

Making the Way of the Cross

When the Way of the Cross is made in a group. The people begin with the Sign of the Cross, and an Act of Contrition, or a similar prayer of repentance for our sins. It is also recommended that the faithful make a spiritual intention of asking God for His Mercy so as to receive the indulgence. At each station:

  • the leader announces the name of the station.
  • the leader says: “We adore Thee O Christ and we praise Thee”
  • as they genuflect, the faithful respond “Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou has redeemed the world.”
  • the leader reads a meditation on each Station, the Faithful should be silently  thanking God for His sacrifice, and uniting themselves to His suffering
  • all pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the Glory Be
  • traditionally the hymn Stabat Mater is sung between stations.

Stations of Our Lord's Cross

The fourteen Stations of the Cross are:

Jesus is Condemned to Die
Jesus is Made to Bear His Cross
Jesus Falls the First Time
Jesus Meets His Mother
Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face
Jesus Falls the Second Time
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Jesus Falls the Third Time
Jesus is Stripped
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Jesus Dies on the Cross
Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

 

 

 

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Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

 

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As we enter into this season of Lent, cross the threshold, if you will, we are called to remember that we are mere dust…a particle so small and insignificant on its own…a lifeless spec, void of blood and bones….

As the priest makes the smudge of a cross with black ashes on our foreheads, he whispers the words, “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris,” which translates into: “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. (this phrase is taken from the book of Genesis) With the humble acceptance of this action we are called to remember that without God, we have no breath…That without God we have no life…We live because He breathes His Life into each us.… He gives our matter, our physical form, its eternal depth… We are formed in His hands from the moment of our conception… before then, even…”Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you,” ( Jeremiah 1:5) Ash Wednesday reminds us that it is because of God that we have life, and without Him, we have nothing… We are nothing.

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Today is a reminder to the Faithful, that even though we are made of dust… formed out of the sin of Adam, marked with the stain of our first parents… with Christ, we have been redeemed. Through no merit of our own, we have been saved. We are reminded that because of God’s goodnessGod’s unfathomable mercy…. we have been transformed. And now, with the promise of God’s salvation, we need to understand that there is more to us than our flesh and bones … Sure, our bodies shall return to dust when we die, because once they are empty, they belong to the earth…. but our souls…our souls… they belong to God!

As the first day of this period of Lent, Ash Wednesday is the perfect way to begin this healing of our souls. With these forty days the Church has given us guidelines…a perimeter of sorts… with fasting, penance, prayers and alms giving. These coming days before Easter should be marked with conversion. We need to put ourselves back on track. We need to use this time as a means of mending and repairing any damage we may have done by becoming comfortable with sin. A sure way to remove this comfort is by fasting and doing penance.  Throughout the centuries the saints have understood the importance of  fasting and depriving themselves of physical satisfactions. St. Francis de Sales wrote: “Fasting and abstinence strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality. It raises our soul to God.”

This detachment from material goods, and this purposeful time of prayer, helps purify us from our sins…When we remove these distractions…we are more apt to find God. And when we do, we are likely to find that perhaps there is no better proof of love…True Love…than a smudge of black ashes in a cross on our foreheads… a visible sign to the world, that yes, there is a God…who came and died for us because He loves us very much.

 

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The Holy Face of Jesus and Shrove Tuesday

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Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and here we are, once again staring into what some would refer to as the dark days of Lent. It is a period of forty days of fasting, prayer and alms giving.  As Catholics, we are called to do without….to sacrifice…there is no meat on the Fridays of Lent and several days of fasting. It is a stark contrast from the ways of the world, in which we are constantly told that we deserve the best, that we are better than this or that… For many, this period of days is a step out of the normal everyday sense of self satisfaction ….During lent we are called to embrace our Crosses… more so than normal. We are called to fast, so that we may be hungry…so that we can gain an appetite for the Lord. We are reminded that we are not put upon this earth to satisfy our every want and desire. It is a period of repentance. But instead of viewing it as long drawn out days of bleakness…let us begin this day by looking at the Holy Face of Jesus.

Today is recognized as Shrove Tuesday. It is also the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus. Of course the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus dates back into ancient times, with the appearance of  special Masses being offered in the fourteenth century. There have been many saints who reflected and wrote devotions honoring this observance. But back in 1958, Pope Pius XII made it official. He decreed that this Feast should be celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Even though there have been many reformers who would try to do away with such devotions, many dioceses throughout the world still hold special masses for this feast, this devotion. Pope John Paul II, even reiterated this message in 1986, and had a Mass celebrated for the feast.

So today as we prepare ourselves for this coming Lenten journey, let us begin by meditating upon the Most Holy Face of Jesus…asking Him for His guidance…His love, and His mercy, in all things, so that we may make this our best lent ever… dying to ourselves, so that He may fill us with Himself.

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PRAYER TO THE HOLY FACE

O Jesus, Who in Thy bitter Passion didst become “the most abject of men, a man of sorrows,” I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon there once did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead … but now it has become for me as if it were the Face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy Infinite Love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men.

The tears which well up abundantly in Thy Sacred Eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase the souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value. O Jesus, Whose adorable Face ravished my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy Divine Image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.  (St Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face)

 

 

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“I Am The Immaculate Conception”- the Message of Our Lady of Lourdes

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In the Traditional Catholic Church, February 11th is recognized as the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It celebrates the first of eighteen visits that began in 1858 and  occurred in Lourdes France, in which the Blessed Mother appeared to a simple young girl, Bernadette Soubirous. During these visits, the Blessed Mother instructed Bernadette to dig in the mud, which revealed a miraculous spring. The Blessed Mother also told Bernadette that she wished that a Church be built on the site.

On one visit when Bernadette asked the Blessed Mother who She was, the Blessed Mother replied, “I  Am the Immaculate Conception.” Revealing a title which the Church had declared as Dogma only four short years prior to these visits. A title that proved, that in fact, the Blessed Mother was actually appearing in the small village, as there was no way that an unschooled young girl would ever have called the Blessed Mother that name on her own accord.

In the Church, it has always been recognized that the Blessed Mother was conceived without the stain of original sin…that she was ‘Immaculately conceived’ in the womb of her own mother. The Church teaches that Mary was kept free from all actual or personal sin, by a special grace from the Lord. Because the Lord knows all things, He knew  that He would have to redeem mankind from their sins by sending His Only Begotten Son to die for them, God created His Mother, Mary, pure and free from any stain of sin…She was the spotless tabernacle in which Jesus would reside…It makes perfect sense. If you were God and wanted to send your Son into a world marked with sin, would you send Him in a dirty, spotted vessel…or would you use the cleanest…Most Holy, untarnished vessel? Well, that is exactly what the Lord did with Mary. He created her to be spotless…pure and Most Holy.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe who was martyred in Auschwitz,  in the year 1941, developed a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, particularly in regard to Her Immaculate Conception. He understood that the Blessed Mother was the way to fight all heresies…He realized, after all, that it was She who would crush the head of Satan…   I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she will crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

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Saint Maximilian Kolbe created an an association which reflects this notion in its very name: the Militia Immaculatae. He understood the absolute importance of her role in the salvation of mankind. Much of his writing dealt with Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. When speaking about Mary he said,

The creature most completely filled with God Himself, was the Immaculate, who never contracted the slightest stain of sin, who never departed in the least from God’s will. United with the Holy Spirit as His spouse, She is one with God in an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicted of any other creature.”

In prayer, he often contemplated her words to young Bernadette for many years. ‘How could She describe Herself as the Immaculate Conception, and not as the One who was Immaculately Conceived?‘ It was a theological question that would puzzle him almost to the end of his life. But there is grace, and shortly before his arrest he had scribbled down some notes as to what it all meant. In a moment of God’s revealing goodness, Maximilian had came to understand that Mary was indeed the ‘created‘ Immaculate Conception, so that She would be able to become the Mother of God through the work of the ‘uncreated‘ Immaculate Conception, which was the Holy Spirit.  Kolbe explained that, everything that exists outside of God, depends upon God in every way…every created thing is in Truth an effect of the ‘Primal Cause.’

In other words, the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mother, with the power of the Holy Spirit is eternal. And because Mary was conceived without sin by the same power of the Holy Spirit…she was completely conformed to his Will…and by the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception, she is totally receptive to God’s love. But her importance did not end with Christ’s birth…that was, in a way, just a part of the beginning. We know that God intended for her to be the Mother of all men, as shown when Jesus, hanging from the Cross, tells His beloved disciple John, “Behold your Mother.” (John 19:26) He was giving His Mother to all of the Faithful. Then if one needs more proof, we know that when Her physical life was over, she did not die, but rather, she was Assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, where She now resides with God the Father …God the Son…and God the Holy Spirit. She remains the living, human conduit for the graces that the Holy Spirit wishes to distribute to us.

And Kolbe goes on to say:

The Holy Spirit manifest his share in the word of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin, who, although she is a person entirely distinct from Him, is so intimately associated with Him, that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary’s action is the very action of the Holy Spirit.

                                                     –Miles Immaculatae, I, by Kolbe, 1938

Unfortunately, so many Christians and even many Catholics don’t understand this role of Mary. They feel that somehow this elevates Mary into a position in which she doesn’t belong…but that is so far from the Truth. Pope John Paul II echoed Saint Maximilian Kolbe when he wrote in 1985,

“the Immaculate Conception does not mean only an exaltation of Mary, as if she had been transported outside of all those who have received the inheritance of the  stain of our first parents. On the contrary, it means her insertion into the very center of the spiritual combat, of this “enmity” that in the course of human history places the Prince of Darkness” and the “Father of Lies” in opposition of the Woman and her Seed.

Through the words of the Book of Genesis, we see Mary Immaculate in all the realism of her election. We see her at the culminating moment of this “enmity”: at the foot of the Cross of Christ on Calvary. There “She will crush your head and you will strike Her heel.”

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Throughout the history of the world the Blessed Mother has come to help guide mankind closer to her Son. When there is an error spreading through the world, she comes like a Light, guiding us back along the path which leads us closer to Jesus. She has given us different tools to help us on our way. The rosary being one of the most important. She even taught the young Bernadette to pray the rosary for conversion of sinners. We still have the rosary today. It is still as effective as it was then. It is one of the most important ways we have of turning our world away from the destructive path it is headed…but we must pray it….everyday…

The Blessed Mother continues to be an example for all mankind. She was created out of God’s pure love….and she loves her Son, with a completeness that is beyond our comprehension, and yet, She continues to avail herself to mankind so that they too, may grow to love Him with a deep intimacy as well.  With a Most compassionate heart, She  wishes for us to love Him with all of our beings. She is tender and caring…often times it is said that she is the reason that God has withheld His just punishment from this evil world. She has come, over the course of this world’s history and has asked us to pray… asked us to allow ourselves to grow closer to her Son. With the rosary, we have an opportunity to do something really special…we have an opportunity to do something really grand…the time for making excuses is gone. We must unite ourselves with the Immaculate Heart of Mary….and love the Sacred Heart of Jesus…with all of our mind, all of our body….all of our being. As we prepare ourselves for this coming Lent, let us resolve to hold nothing back… let’s give it all back to Himfor His greater Glory. Amen.

 

 

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Praying to End Human Trafficking – Saint Josephine Bakhita

The scourge of human trafficking is a real threat to women and children all over the world, particularly in countries where women are still treated as subclass humans. It used to be a problem that was far away, a problem that happened in poor countries on the other side of the world, but not anymore. Unfortunately it is spreading right here at home in the good ole’ United States of America. People who have no value for the sanctity of life have created the perfect environment for this type of behavior to flourish and spread.  When we allow people to decide if a child should live or die, when a society pushes abortion as a right, treating the unborn baby as subhuman…these are the fruits that will be reaped.

Many young women in the middle east are kidnapped by Muslims and sold into slavery every day. Some of these girls are as young as nine years old. They are sold for labor, and for sex. It is quite disturbing. Even here in our own homeland, people are selling children for exploitation or personal gain. Drug addicted parents have been caught selling their sweet little children to scumbags for sexual acts, so they can support their drug habit. There is something wrong with a society that falls so far, that parents won’t even protect their young children from the monsters of the world.

There are roughly 20.9  million human trafficking victims worldwide, and in the United States last year there were over 4,000 victims. But so often, victims do not report the crime. Many of them are afraid that they will be punished for the crime of prostitution. Unfortunately, many of these women and girls are forced into silence by pimps who threaten them with violence or threaten them by telling them that they will go to jail for prostitution. It is a dismal circle of violence and hopelessness for many of these victims. They are trapped, many of them feel like they have no way out. It is a vicious cycle that often offers no way of escape, except death.

As Christians we need to pray for these children…for these girls and these women. Even if we can do nothing else, they at least deserve that much from us.  We have an obligation to bring them into our hearts and pray for them. Many of these young girls live in godless homes and have little hope…we have to be that hope. We have to carry the Light of Christ everywhere…even if it threatens our comfort zone…even if it makes us uncomfortable or sad. God expects great things from us. He created each of us for greatness. If you need a push in the right direction, you need to look no further than today’s saint, Saint Josephine Bakhita.

Josephine Bakhita was born into a wealthy Sudanese family in the late 1860’s. When she was just seven years old, Muslim slave traders captured her. She was sold and resold into the sex slave market while she was still a child. She was beat and abused at the hands of these men. A few years later she was bought by a Catholic Italian Consul General. He did not abuse her, either physically or sexually. Living with him and his family, she was finally able to have a bit of happiness.  They treated her with respect and she was able to feel like a part of their family as she cared for their children. When the family moved back to Italy, she begged to go with them.

Bakhita

She was treated very well in Italy and grew to love the country.  She became a  Catholic Christian in the year 1890, and took the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life. In 1893, she entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice Italy. She lived with them for the next fifty years.

Even though she had endured much suffering and abuse at the hands of her captors, when she became a religious sister, she had a most pleasant demeanor and was very comforting to those she served. She was eager to always help with any task, often taking on the menial tasks that others avoided. She had a very warm continence and was the subject of a book that was published in 1930. After which, she was often sought after for speaking engagements. Any monies she earned she used to support the poor.

Her terrible ordeal did not tarnish her soul. As a matter of fact, she once said:

“If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me
and even those who tortured me,
I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen,
I would not be a Christian and Religious today…”

Even though she was not a Christian at the beginning of her ordeal, she was able, with God’s grace, to look at the world, look at the events of her life, with the eyes of one who trusts in the Lord. Even though she suffered at the hands of men and endured terrible pains, she was able to see that God had a purpose for her. She could see that He had indeed created her for great things. She carried her sufferings as a Cross that united her to Christ. She once said:

“I can truly say that it was a miracle I did not die,
because the Lord has destined me for greater things…”
Saint josephine bakhita

So today, as we contemplate the life of this brave woman, let us remember our sisters who are still being captured and imprisoned in these hellish traps. Let us actively work to end this horrible crime against humanity. If we can offer our prayers for these women who suffer, or perhaps volunteer or donate funding, we can help ease the suffering of so many, who have lost hope. We can bring the Light of Christ into these dark corners of the world and help these women…these girls realize what Saint Josephine was able to realize…that there is a God, and He loves them very much.

Let us pray for them, that God’s grace will reach them, and that even in their darkest hours they may know that there is hope. On this day, which has been designated as the International Day of Prayer to Stop Human Trafficking, let us vow to not forget these women who are often used and abused and treated without the dignity they deserve. And perhaps, with God’s goodness and grace…we may be able to help these women…these girls… realize that in fact they were created for far greater things.

Prayer to End Human Trafficking

O Lord, you said you came: “to set the captives free.”
In our world young men and women who are trafficked are modern day slaves.
Help these young people not to lose hope.
Give the grace for elected officials to grow in awareness of and to take active steps to eradicate this horror.
Teach them not to prosecute the victims of trafficking but to bring to justice those who perpetrate this crime.
Lord, give the grace of conversion to those who mistreat unfortunates for their own personal gain.
May demand decrease as people realize that prostitution is a crime against human dignity, forced upon these people, who are more victim than anything else.
May the awareness of this horrendous crime spread throughout the world and may many join the efforts to stop trafficking and help the victims begin anew, filled with hope.

We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

~  Sr. Veronica Piccone, MSC

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Feast of Saint Blaise

As we begin this shortest month of the year, we have already started off with several feast days as well as the secular holiday of ground hog’s day, a day in which many hold their breath to see if some fat groundhog will see its shadow or not. But in the Catholic Church, the aim is a bit higher, and already this first week we have celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple which takes place on the same day as the Purification of the Blessed Mother and is also celebrated as the Feast of Candlemas. It has been a busy week. Finally, with this first weekend well under way, we come to the Feast of Saint Blaise.

Saint Blaise was a well educated physician who lived in the 3rd century. When the Bishop of  Sebaste in Armenia died, Blaise was chosen to replace him. It was a time in which terrible persecutions were being doled out for the Christians living there. The persecutions continued to worsen under the reign of the Governor Licinius.  When soldiers were sent to gather all the Christians, God sent a message to Blaise to run into the wilderness, so as to escape imprisonment. Blaise obeyed and went into the woods where he found a cave in which he was able to continue serving the Christian faithful.

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There are many stories surrounding this Saint including his connection with wild animals. Once a village woman had witnessed a wolf snatch a young piglet from her lot. She chased it through the woods and came upon the saint. She told him what had happened where upon he immediately scolded the wolf for stealing. Without hesitating, the wolf released the piglet and disappeared into the forest. Word spread through out the village that not only did the saint care for the Faithful but for all of God’s creatures as well.

In fact, when the governor’s soldiers were out searching for Saint Blaise, they found  a cave surrounded by many animals which were sick and suffering. As they peered into the dark cave they witnessed Saint Blaise down among them, healing them. Instead of being awed, they captured him and took him to the governor who had him imprisoned.

While in prison, a woman who had heard of his miraculous ways, brought her young son who was suffering from a disease of the throat and asked Saint Blaise for his blessing. Some stories say that the young child had a fish bone stuck in his throat, but either way, as soon as the saint prayed for the young lad, he was healed. In thanksgiving for the cure, the woman brought candles to alleviate the cold and dampness that permeated the saint’s dark cell.

Soon Blaise stood before the judge. He was told that in order to secure his freedom, he must make an offering to the pagan gods of Rome and offer a pinch of incense to honor Caesar, and confess his loyalty to them instead of to the One True God. He refused to deny the Lord. So instead of gaining his freedom on earth, he was given the punishment of death. And then along with a group of religious women, he was cruelly tortured and beheaded.

Word spread about this miraculous Saint and he was often called upon in times of trouble. During the Middle Ages his fame grew and many of the Faithful developed a devotion to this holy saint. He is often represented in art with two candles blessing a young boy. He is also included in a listing of saints called the fourteen “Holy Helpers.” These are the holy men and women who could be counted on as intercessors for all manners of maladies. He was often called upon for protection from throat ailments, which often are the first sign of a more severe illness, such as an impending epidemic.

During the 14th century when a plague epidemic caused sudden and painful death, many died suddenly without the benefit of the sacraments. Perhaps born out of  their fear, many people sought the intercession of the saints to ease their sufferings. It was during this time that many  of the faithful developed a devotion to praying to the saints,  in particular, Saint Blaise. Due to the many reports of healing and intercession, he became the patron of those suffering from any illness, but particularly those ailments that affect the throat. Even to this day, the 3rd of February is when the priest will use two blessed candles in the shape of a cross and bless everyone’s throat for protection against disease and illness.

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As Catholics… as professed Christians, we do not mourn Saint Blaise’s earthly death. We know that this time on earth is but a brief moment of our eternal life, and like Blaise,  we must place our Trust in the Lord. We are living a time when Christianity is falling by the wayside. So many of the Truths that have been clung to and professed for years are now being denied. We are living in a day and age where we are expected to abandon the teachings of the Church and follow along with the cultural trends.  It seems that not a day goes by that we don’t hear of someone being punished for not embracing the humanistic ideologies that are moving through our societies. People are being condemned for their pro-life convictions and people are being persecuted for their stand on the sanctity of marriage. Unfortunately, it is only going to get worse. As these groups gain momentum, they tend to take on a more aggressive attitude towards those who do not accept these new ‘fangled truths,’ which are really lies..

We must understand that one day we may be facing the same kinds of persecution that Saint Blaise faced, and like him we must realize that even if we are faced with tyrannical leaders who threaten us with violence or even death, that we must stand firm in the Faith and like those before us, accept the promise of Christ and know that if we allow ourselves to be transformed through our own suffering and death, while holding fast to the Truth,  God will protect us from all harm. And even though we may never reach the status of a declared saint in the Holy Mother Church, that perhaps one day, we may be able to join with those who have gone before us, and find our place with God in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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