This blog is dedicated to two men, a Saint and a Venerable, and both died on a July 31. Again, a combination a la Pope Francis. à Jesuit and Franciscan. This is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola… Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin Franciscan also died in Detroit at the age of 86 on July 31, 1957. On July 11, 1995, he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II. When Fr. Solanus was considered a candidate for canonization, Fr. Gerard Hesse sent a report of Fr. Solanus’ reputation to sanctity to the general minister in Rome with the report of 24 reported healings attributed to Solanus’ intercession. Eventually, the cause moved another step forward with the appointment by the Congregation of a Relator for the Cause, Fr. Peter Gumpel, SJ…!!!! In 1997, his body was found incorrupt.
He was originally from Wisconsin. In 1897 he took the name of St. Francis Solanus, a 17th century Spanish nobleman, intellectual, missionary and preacher. Six years later he was ordained. He suffered much. Because he ranked only in the lower half of his class, his teachers recommended that his priestly office be severely restricted. He could say Mass but was not permitted to expound from the pulpit on dogma. He was not allowed to hear confessions except under emergency circumstances.
During his 21 years as porter at St. Bonaventure Convent in Detroit (other years he spent in New York), he filled seven notebooks with more than 6,000 requests for help from petitioners. And to some 700 of these he recorded reported cures from cancer, leukemia, tuberculosis, diphtheria, arthritis, blindness, and other maladies. These brief postscripts also report conversions of fallen-away churchgoers and favorable resolutions of domestic and business problems.
I have not posted this month’s blog earlier because I have been so busy following the WYD’s events and chewing the best I can all what was said in Brazil. Plus, last month I was almost with one foot in Costa Rica while accompanying my cousin for the closing of a property she inherited and that had been sold; so I wrote the blog early in case the trip would disrupt the posting. As it turned out, it was canceled and I have all the time to gather all what I learned and share it with you. Also, my left sickly eye has been giving me problems in the last 2 weeks… and of course, God had it all planned, so that I could write this blog a little later and spend much time going through all I learned from Pope Francis during his visit to Brazil.
This month of July had very poignant reminders for me. On July 8, five years ago, I arrived in California for my retirement. My second son (with whom I live) and I, started our journey on July 4 from Toledo, OH, and ended up stopping for the night in South Bend Indiana. We went to Mass on this weekend and I went to confession at a Notre Dame University chapel. My confessor sent me to proclaim the Mercy of God… and little did I know that 4 months later, I would start “blogging.”
But July is so very special because I was baptized on a July 17… at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy, in San Jose, Costa Rica. I have mentioned before that San Jose has 5 very important churches (among others) and all dedicated to my Mother, which make a cross. To the north we have Our Lady of Carmel Church. To the south and some 20-30 blocks away, we have Our Lady of Sorrows Church (La Dolorosa).To the east we have Our Lady of Solitude. To the west we have Our Lady of Mercy where I was baptized. In the very center of this cross, is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I always celebrate this date of July 17 as my real birthday… I was taken to a photography studio and I have a picture of how I looked on this great day… My godmother, my father’s sister, was the genius who left me with this great pictorial memorabilia. Forty five minutes east of San Jose, we have the minor Basilica of Our Lady Queen of Angels who appeared in the XVI C in Cartago, a different province than San Jose. I am named after her: Maria Antonieta of the Angels… Huh. So, my Mama has been at the center of all my ongoing conversions because she is always around and I love her sooo much.
And by chance, I went back to the blog of February of 2013 and found a connection of Our Lady of Vailankanni, of whom I have written also very much and the election of our new Pope… I wonder if she, under this title, was working overtime… and if he should pay a visit to her Basilica in India…
Let me repeat what I wrote then:
Quote from blog of February 2013
“I had fallen asleep in my room chair and left EWTN on… I woke up at 12 AM and a program was starting on Our Lady of Good Health, also known as Our Lady of Vailankanni in south eastern India and a town with a population of 1,000. Yet, this town sees about 8,000,000 visitors a year from all religions because they are attracted by her miracles. What a Mom we have…
“Later in the afternoon, I turned on EWTN at 3:30 PM and bingo, the same program was to start. I paid more attention this time, although this is the third time that I have watched it… because it has been presented before and because of my poor health, her title was attractive and perfect for me…
“At 3:35 PM, as I was watching this program she said “Pay much attention to the story at 3:40 PM.” It was exactly at this time that the first boy of the story of her apparition was giving the milk to her to feed the Baby, Jesus.
“Later on she said, ‘That is what you have to do: to give all you have to me to give to my Son; He is the Priest that heads all others in the Church and they are in need of spiritual renewal.’ She sent me to a page in the Bible, Deuteronomy 9. A priest and Moses’ brother, Aaron, had sinned and allowed the Israelites to build the golden calf and worship it. This made God very angry and ready to punish them. Moses had just come down from the mountain with the Tablets of the Law when he found this disturbing scene. He left for the mountain again and spent 40 days fasting and praying asking God to pardon them. And GOD LISTENED TO MOSES…
“For me, the message was clear. My crosses with the big yes to them as a form of fasting my will plus my prayer must be offered in atonement for the sins of all the Cardinals that are candidates to become the new Pope. Seeing this program twice and exactly hours after the Holy Father Benedict XVI announced his decision, was proof enough. I also have to offer all my sufferings and fast my will as best as I can, in order for these men to know very clearly who will be the one to lead the Church in these moments where a new evangelization must be sought and taught and witnessed by the new Pope” (End of quote)
I have continued trying to live the present moment as explained in the last and other blogs but with a little difference, and the power of this effort seems to have given an extraordinary nutrition to my soul. So, this would be the only new thing that I will share with you.
Eventually I understood how God wanted to show me that it is all about loving Him day and night as He described it for us. And this practice takes one to increase a personal relationship with Him. It is delightful to feel His closeness, His crazy love, His interest on all I say or do, and as our present Holy Father has recently said, to be surprised by God. God is soo real… So human and yet so divine… Many times I feel sadness for the times wasted in learning about Him but not dedicating every moment of the day to be with Him in the many ways that He can show me His Presence.
I will develop the theme of all that happened at WYD 2013, but I will do it at the end because most likely you know all about it and this way you can ignore it. I actually wrote it for myself since in a short while, I will not remember in detail his many teachings that touched my soul, and this way I would have a summary to keep working in following it in order to render fruits from this extraordinary spiritual material.
II. Personal experiences of the last five weeks
I am not going to be too extensive in this part; otherwise this blog would become a little book… I will only share some special moments lived in the respective date.
1. Satan quit bugging me with oppressions and changed the venue…
1) My oppressions continued until about the middle of July and suddenly, they were gone. I suspect that people were praying for me. Thank you… Prayer does work.
2) Satan took other venues to prompt me or tempt me to resent… my neighbor. So, suddenly my car insurance membership, which I pay via Internet was suddenly attacked. The company through the association of retired people (AARP), announced in a simple letter of June 26 that I had missed my payment of June 18 (did not) and that I had to pay it by July 7 at 12:01 AM or lose it… Hmm. It turned out that July 7 was a Sunday and the payment on a Sunday had to arrive one minute after 12 midnight… Ouch… Why not to say: July 6… Ah, but that is also a lie since these companies and banks always claim that they do not work on Saturdays. So, actually, I had until Friday, July 5. I suspect that they knew via my health insurance also through AARP, that my left eye had a poor vision. So, they orchestrated this attack, especially for a poor Hispanic older woman, most likely a little forgetful and who knows if a little stupid as well. I called after much prayer in order to do it as a Christian would and yes, they had nothing to say nor refuted the truth. They were caught in their own lies… But, unfortunately, I still have a little left over resentment!!!
3) My treatment by “doctors” has been the most horrible possible. The many doctors I have seen were very nice but I solved zero of my health problems… Besides, Satan struck big time and the assistant of my primary Internist would not follow through with what I needed. One cannot talk to the doctor; only to an assistant. I needed more thyroid medication and took a letter dated June 11 personally to the office asking for this to be done… since the dose had been diminished at the very beginning of my connecting with this doctor back in December. I knew I need another laboratory test to corroborate if the new dose chosen was the correct one or not. The letter of June 11 was lost… and then found one month later. Worse, I was asked to visit this doctor to discuss my other letter of July 6 where I ask her if she wants me as a patient with so much controversy. And at this time, my computerized chart showed that I needed this test for my thyroid but looked like I rejected it… AND I HAD NEVER BEING CONTACTED TO DO IT… since the letter of June 11 had not been addressed at all. This is the enemy spirit doing all possible to make me angry and resentful. The doctor saw me a few days ago and yes, I had to tell her that the organization around her failed and it was a case of malpractice. I told her that I had been a manager in health care and know the importance of correcting errors for legal reasons. She confessed that their group has had multiple complaints regarding the same issue and that she would bring it up to the Board. We kept our friendship but I have no trust in their system.
Corollary: please always keep in mind that whenever you feel resentment, even when you are correct, that it is a temptation from Satan and from our flesh. Therefore, what I will share later will confirm the importance of sanctifying our every present moment.
2. A few reports of important themes
Every day of the last 5 weeks, I have tried to follow the card with the plan to remain in the Presence of God as shared last month.
Friday, July 5. On this date we learned that the miracle for our Blessed John Paul II to be canonized came from a woman from my home country of Costa Rica… How interesting…
Thursday, July 18.
I arrived for noon Mass at 11 AM and sat in front of the Tabernacle. Little did I know that I would live an extraordinary encounter with Him.
He started saying, “Let’s talk.” I actually wanted to start the Rosaries hoping to say 3 of them during this Holy Hour. But Jesus stopped me and said, “What are you doing here?”
I said, “I came to love You.”
Jesus: “What else?”
Me: “I also came to praise You and ask You to help to live the card with notes regarding the present moment.”
Jesus: “But, why are you here?”
Me: “I also came to say Rosaries to stop the evil one.”
Jesus: “To pray Rosaries should never be the main reason to be here. You must be here for an important reason. So, why are you here?”
Me: “I ran out of reasons.”
Jesus: “You are here so that we can talk. Any relationship needs communication and just praying Rosaries will not do it. You are here to listen to Me. But what about if I do not say anything?”
Me: “It will be alright because that is Your will.”
Jesus: “Correct. It does not matter if I say something or not. Your reason to be here is to be present to Me in quiet, one on one. You need to give me the time to guide you. Yes, I am with you always and everywhere you go, but a true personal friendship means to encounter each other; it needs togetherness. In between, you follow your card the best you can and that will open your ears, your eyes and understanding to my Words when you come to be with Me.”
Saturday, July 20. This was an extraordinary day for me. I received the following Words from the Bible:
John 14: 21 “Whoever has My commandments and observe them is the one who loves Me. And whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.”
John 15: 7, 9-10, 12-13. “If you remain in Me and My Words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
It was a very simple Truth… I must keep my card close by to remind me what to do in regards to being faithful to the commandments, BUT DO IT ALL DAY… And then the Lord explained to me how to live the contents of my card. And I was taught how to best implement this keeping of the Commandments. I was given the understanding that if each present moment is as perfect as it can be, how could I sanctify each particular moment. Here are some examples:
1. The love of God – my Yes to His will must be unconditional, which means that I must give myself to whatever God wishes and for as long as He wishes, and yet, never get personally involved in them. I must refuse to think beyond each present moment with the certitude that all that will happen will be perfect and necessary for my salvation and of other souls.
Part of this love of God is to radically accept, embrace and offer up all crosses willed or allowed by the Father as instruments of sanctification of my soul. If darkness surrounds me (oppression), I must say a radical yes to it and offer it up, since if I remain in God’s love I can ask for whatever and will be done and intercessory prayer is essential to pray for the Church and the world.
While driving, I must often use present moments in thanking God for the car, for the ability to drive, for my good eye to be able to have a driver’s license, and even for the system of green, red and yellow lights to ensure my safety.
I must understand that I have to spend time with the Son of God in order to be sanctified for the obedience of His commandments. Time for prayer is not here and there. Prayer must be a programmed activity to enhance my daily encounter with Him in the living of every present moment as described above. I must call Our Lady to help me. I must consider myself a “Campus Fidei” as we learned from Pope Francis. I must constantly do three things:
1) Make of my soul a fertile place to sow the seeds of the Word of God
2) Make of my soul a training ground to nurture the gift of faith, hope and love that the Lord gives me. And the best training consists in obeying the commandments.
3) And also, keep constructing the sanctification of my soul that will be able to share the Gospel with others but with the power of witness.
2. Another aspect of this love for God has to do with keeping my attention on what is happening now. What is it? It is in each present moment that I can love my neighbor. Examples:
1) In the expressway, I must allow others to get in front of me and pray for all as I drive.
2) In the supermarket, trying to always think of the needs of other shoppers or offer patience for the cashiers when they are slow.
3) When watching the news, never to pass judgment on those talking. When they are in error about the ways of the world as the answer for their lives, I must pray for them at that moment.
4) I cannot allow any resentment to live for long in my heart. If I cannot dismantle it, I will repent and ask the Holy Spirit for help.
5) Every human being, nice or not, difficult or not, must be seen as an image of God.
ABOVE ALL, I must remember that reading, writing and speaking about God’s love and my responses to it have nothing to do with being His disciple. Discipleship must be lived precisely by denying myself, embracing my crosses and following Him, that is, to do all what He did while on earth and all that He taught us.
Sunday, July 28. I had an attack of joy during the Mass… This does not happen all the time. However, some days in His Presence I feel like melting with happiness. I have no control over it. On this day I wrote in my journal: I must go and evangelize with the grace of God. But how? Evangelization is an encounter with Christ that gives the power, wisdom and strength to go and make disciples of all nations. Therefore, once I live each present moment obeying the commandments the best I can and as I know how, I encounter God and He takes over. This is the way to give the Holy Spirit the best yes to proceed and use me to save souls.
I understand that it will be a long re-wring of my brain but worth it. I will work on my soul’s health in order to become an instrument to open the hearts of many to say yes to Him. I must give others food, the witness of my life, and Jesus will multiply this spiritual food for their sake. My effort could then be called a lying down of my life for others. The Pope called us to promote the culture of encounter by accepting all our brothers and sisters of all ages and social class. My efforts of promoting this culture of encounter must start within, in my soul, as I focus in doing what He has told me in John 14.
III. Concluding remarks on this month’s personal experience with God
Our Holy Father asked how can we bring others to Christ and give a new incentive to the modern Emmaus disciples. There are certain truths that are the rock of this project.
1. We cannot lead others to a relationship with Jesus unless we have experienced it.
2. Evangelization is all about our personal encounter with Christ.
3. To bring others back to Jesus, we must spend time with Him, which will augment our love for Him. Once we truly have this experience, we proceed to pass it on, to give it away to others and then they will open their hearts to God. The Holy Spirit will then take over.
4. To spend time with Him can take many forms:
1) The most important is relating to His Real Presence. There is nothing like spending time with the Beloved for Him to surprise us with His love.
2) But we can find Him in our brothers and sisters, all of them, and the neediest are a sure way to grow faster in this relationship.
3) We just had the greatest lab experiment of what love can do… We felt the love of Pope Francis for everyone around him as a constant witness of his keeping the second most important Commandment. All his words and gestures spelled love… All Popes at least in the last century till now have loved much, but Pope Francis, although a son of Italian parents, grew up in Latin America. WE ARE VERY GOOD TO SHOW OUR LOVE… At the end of the Sunday Mass, I frequently kiss the hand of my Pastor because I was trained to do so as a child. We kiss the hand of the one who had taken a piece of bread and through the mystery of Ordination can bring Jesus, Body and Soul to that bread.
We Latin Americans can cause concern to American born members with our signs of love demonstrated without any concern of what others would say. AND SO, the THE GREATEST FORM OF PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL IS THROUGH LOVE… The Holy Spirit takes over… and He did in Brazil.
IV. Pope Francis, WYD in Brazil
A. Little did I know that the future Pope Francis would be so Marian and so willing to smell like his sheep! Little did I know that in 2007, and then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was an important figure in redacting the document of Aparecida … as one can read in the link below from the USCCB and just to refresh what this document is all about for anyone who has not done so in recent times:
From the USCCB: In May 2007, Bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean region voted overwhelmingly (127-2) to approve a final document calling the region’s Catholics to renew their commitment to discipleship and mission and setting directions for the church in the region for the next 10 to 15 years. The document, more than 100 pages long, was then sent to Pope Benedict XVI, who approved the text now known as the "Aparecida Document," the master plan for the New Evangelization in Latin America. The experience of Aparecida offers a powerful message of hope and some best practices to pastoral ministers and church leaders.
The first part of the document, entitled "The Life of Our People," begins with a section giving thanks to God for the gift of being disciples and missionaries. It is followed by a description of the social, cultural, economic, political, ethnic and ecological situation in the region, which poses immense challenges such as globalization, structural injustice, and the crisis in the transmission of faith.
In the second section, the bishops explore what it means to be disciples and missionaries today, including "the joy of being called to proclaim the Gospel"; the vocation of discipleship; communion among Catholics with different vocations, as well as dialogue with other denominations and religions; and faith life, including popular religious practices, Catholic communities and movements and formation, especially Christian initiation, lifelong catechesis and religious formation.
The last section outlines pastoral priorities for the church in the region. It notes the "new faces of the poor," including the unemployed, migrants, and those who are abandoned or ill, and highlights the urgent need to care for the environment, which has been a constant theme throughout the historic gathering of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Aparecida document has a strong evangelical thrust. It says that everyone in the Church is baptized to be a missionary. No one comes out of the baptismal font without a job! (love this last sentence). Furthermore, there is no place that is not mission territory. Everything in the Church must be mission-driven.
The Aparecida document also speaks clearly and positively about the person and role of Jesus Christ. One can see and hear the person of Pope Benedict XVI on nearly every page of the document. The raison d’etre of evangelization is to foster friendship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God who reveals both the face of the merciful Father and the truth about our humanity.
The Aparecida document is not a defensive document. If Catholics are leaving the Church and finding a spiritual home in Pentecostal communities, it is not the fault of those individual Catholics but of the Church. The Catholic Church must honestly ask herself what is missing in her presentation of the Gospel and the authentic, full living of the Gospel. Unless we are blatantly honest without our past errors, current malaise, lack of creativity and inability to connect with the modern world, and without a willingness to fill those gaps, we will continue to witness massive departures of the faithful from the Catholic Church. The old adage "build it and they will come" must be taken to heart. Because if we don’t build new structures and welcoming places, the people will simply go elsewhere, and those "elsewhere’s" are often not the most life-giving places for our people.
The antidotes to our pastoral failures are what the bishops gathered in Aparecida call the necessity of "permanent catechesis": an ongoing encounter with the Lord Jesus deepened spiritually through Word and Sacrament, the Bible and the Eucharist.
Allow me to offer several interpretive keys to the "success" of the Aparecida document and explain why this important text has resonated with so many people throughout Latin American and far beyond. Aparecida evokes first of all a major Marian shrine, and through their meeting at this holy place of pilgrimage, the bishops were confronted on a daily basis with the traditional piety of Latin America that finds such rich, moving, beautiful expression manifested toward the Mother of the Lord. The Mother of the Lord brings together past, present and future and offers countless opportunities of creativity and fidelity to the millions of people who flock to this shrine.
During their stay in Aparecida, bishops had regular contact with huge numbers of the faithful that come to the shrine on pilgrimage. The shepherds had the opportunity to "take on the odor of the sheep." This important gathering was not held in a downtown convention centre or major hotel complex, nor in the quiet confines of a monastery or abbey. The meeting took place in the midst of a continuous pilgrimage of God’s people. Such a pilgrimage becomes a privileged opportunity to witness popular piety and devotion and experience new missionary endeavors that are all part of this reality called the New Evangelization. The same phenomenon takes place during every World Youth Day, in the midst of the noise, the chaos, the music, the dancing, the crowds and the prayers of millions of young people. The 2007 Aparecida meeting of Bishops took place in an atmosphere of liturgy and prayer. As the bishops voted on propositions, paragraphs and amendments to the text, the Latin American and Caribbean Churches were singing and praying around them and for them.
At Aparecida and in the document that now bears the name of that hallowed shrine, bishops promised to defend the poor and excluded, including children, people who are ill or have disabilities, at-risk youths, the elderly, prisoners and migrants. They also pledged to promote formation for Christian politicians and legislators "so they contribute to the building of a just and fraternal society."
Bishops promised that the church will work to ensure "health, food, education, housing and work for all" and to combat the ills of society such as abortion, war, kidnapping, armed violence, terrorism, sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and corruption.
Bishops also affirmed several key elements of liberation theology, even though those two words never appear in the official documents. After nearly thirty years of confusion and controversy, in Aparecida liberation theology’s authentic, lasting legacy begins to emerge.
But perhaps the most visible fruit of the Aparecida document was made known to the world on the night of March 13, 2013, when one of the participants in the Aparecida Conference, who was himself one of the architects of the masterful, pastoral teaching, appeared on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and was presented to the world with a new name: "Francis." If you wish to understand what Aparecida was all about, listen to Francis and watch his profound simple gestures. But more than simply listening and watching, imitate them. For in the person of Pope Francis, millions who flock to Brazil will have an opportunity to see and hear the message of Aparecida in the flesh.
(End of article by the USCCB)
Writing the above lines and after the precious events at WYD 2013 in Brazil, I must say that I feel surprised by God one more time… I never referred to my encounters with Him, even when I suddenly understood things in the Scriptures which I never noticed before, as being surprised by God… Of course, I learned it from our Pope Francis.
And yes, the surprises continue… Just 24 hours after he was elected to the Chair of Peter, I was digging the Argentinean papers for his writings and translating them for my son the theologian. There was one I found from 2011 called, “God in the City.” It was a long presentation and I translated half of it. I never finished the other half for him. He was referring to this Aparecida document and it was then, back in March, when Aparecida became a name that I had to explore… Well, by now, I cannot thank God enough that there is so much to learn about my Mother under this title…We have heard enough but I want to be fair to her and place here a little of her story…
B. OUR LADY OF APARECIDA (Isn’t she pretty?)
The dark statue is currently housed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. The popular devotion is to the image and to the first apparition in Brazil of the Immaculate Conception of a dark-skinned color. The image is considered a symbol of this event and the apparition as a blessing to Brazil.
The Roman Rite feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida is October 12. Since the basilica’s consecration 1980 by Pope John Paul II, it is also a public holiday in Brazil. The Basilica is the largest Marian shrine of the world being able to hold up to 45,000 worshippers.
According to the official account of the Aparecida apparition, in October 1717, Dom Pedro de Almeida, Count of Assunar and Governor of the Province of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, , was passing through the area of Guaratingueta, a small city in the Paraiba river valley, during a trip to Vila Rica, an important gold mining site.
As the people of Guaratinguetá decided to hold a feast in his honor, three fishermen, Domingos Garcia, João Alves, and Filipe Pedroso went down to the Paraíba waters to fish. The fishermen prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception that God would grant a good catch. The fishermen, having a run of bad luck, cast their nets in the River Paraiba and dragged up a headless statue of the Virgin Mary. They also salvaged the head and, according to the legend, then netted plenty of fish. After cleaning the statue, they found that it was a black version of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Legend has it that when the fishermen recovered the body, then the head, the slender figure of the Aparecida Virgin became so heavy that they couldn’t budge it. The fishermen named the statue Nossa Senhora da Aparecida Conceição (English: Our Lady of the Appeared Conception). Neighbors began to venerate the statue, which came to be known as Our Lady of Aparecida, and devotion grew. The first chapel was built in 1745. On June 16, 1930, Pius XI declared Our Lady of Aparecida as the patroness of Brazil. On July 4, 1980, Blessed John Paul II visited the Shirine and gave it the title of Basilica.
PRAYER OF BLESSED JOHN PAUL II TO OUR LADY OF APARECIDA
Lady Aparecida, a son of yours who belongs to you unreservedly "totus tuus" called by the mysterious plan of Providence to be the Vicar of your Son on earth, wishes to address you at this moment. He recalls with emotion, because of the brown color of this image of yours, another image of yours, the Black Virgin of Jasna Gora. Mother of God and our Mother, protect the Church, the Pope, the bishops, the priests and all the faithful people; welcome under your protecting mantle men and women religious, families, children, young people, and their educations. Health of the sick and Consoler of the afflicted, comfort those who are suffering in body and soul; be the light of those who are seeking Christ, the Redeemer of all; show all people that you are the Mother of our confidence. Queen of Peace and Mirror of Justice, obtain peace for the world, ensure that Brazil and all countries may have lasting peace, that we will always live together as brothers and sisters and as children of God. Our Lady Aparecida, bless all your sons and daughters who pray and sing to you here and elsewhere.
C. Quotes from Pope Francis while in Brazil which impacted me and most of you know about them; however and as written before, I am doing it for myself… He was talking to the youth of the entire world, and I would add, the Holy Spirit was talking to all of us…
In the Mass at the Shrine on Wednesday, 24 July 2013, Pope Francis said:
"God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us, but He asks us to let ourselves be surprised by His love, to accept His surprises. Let us trust God!"
“What joy I feel as I come to the house of the Mother of every Brazilian, the Shrine of our Lady of Aparecida! The day after my election as Bishop of Rome, I visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, in order to entrust my ministry to Our Lady. Today I have come here to ask Mary our Mother for the success of World Youth Day and to place at her feet the life of the people of Latin America.
“There is something that I would like to say first of all. Six years ago the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean was held in this Shrine. Something beautiful took place here, which I witnessed at first hand. I saw how the Bishops – who were discussing the theme of encountering Christ, discipleship and mission – felt encouraged, supported and in some way inspired by the thousands of pilgrims who came here day after day to entrust their lives to Our Lady. That Conference was a great moment of Church. It can truly be said that the Aparecida Document was born of this interplay between the labors of the Bishops and the simple faith of the pilgrims, under Mary’s maternal protection. When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.
“Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal. For this reason I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.” (End of quote)
July 26, 2013 – Holy Father’s address to the youth from Argentina gathered in Rio for World Youth Day.
And faith in Jesus Christ isn’t a joke, it’s something very serious, it’s a scandal. That God came to make Himself one of us is a scandal! And that He died on the Cross is a scandal, the scandal of the Cross. The Cross continues to be a scandal, but the Cross is the only sure way, Jesus is the only sure way, Jesus’ Incarnation!
Please, don’t liquefy faith in Jesus Christ! There is orange milk shake, apple milk shake, banana milkshake, but please, don’t take liquefied faith! The faith is whole; it’s not to be liquefied. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the Son of God made man, who loved me and died for me.
So, have a row! Look after the extremes of the Nation which are the elderly and young people! Don’t let yourselves be excluded and don’t let the elderly be excluded; secondly, don’t liquefy faith in Jesus Christ.
The Beatitudes! What do we have to do, Father? Look, read the Beatitudes which will do you good, and if you want to know what practical thing you must do, read Matthew 25, which is the protocol with which we will be judged. With those two things you have the program of action: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. You don’t need to read anything else. I ask this of you from the depth of my heart!
(Matthew 25 highlights: 1) The parable of the ten virgins: 5 virgins were ready with enough oil to meet the bridegroom; the other 5 were not. “Therefore stay awake, for you know either the day or the hour.” 2) The parable of the talents. We must use our God given talents or lose them. 3) The judgment of the nations. When the Son of Man comes, “He will separate the nations and place the sheep on His right and the goats on his left. To the sheep He will say, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” This group had fed, given water, taken care of and welcomed those in need. To those in the left, He will say, “Depart from me, you accursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Those did not feed, give water, take car and welcomed those in need. “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.”)
Address to Bishops of July 27 ( a few quotes)
1. Aparecida: a key for interpreting the Church’s mission In Aparecida God gave Brazil his own Mother. But in Aparecida God also offered a lesson about Himself, about his way of being and acting. A lesson about the humility which is one of God’s essential features, part of God’s DNA. Aparecida offers us a perennial teaching about God and about the Church; a teaching which neither the Church in Brazil nor the nation itself must forget.
At the beginning of the Aparecida event, there were poor fishermen looking for food. So much hunger and so few resources. People always need bread. People always start with their needs, even today. They have a dilapidated, ill-fitted boat; their nets are old and perhaps torn, insufficient. First comes the effort, perhaps the weariness, of the catch, yet the results are negligible: a failure, time wasted. For all their work, the nets are empty.
Then, when God wills it, he mysteriously enters the scene. The waters are deep and yet they always conceal the possibility of a revelation of God. He appeared out of the blue, perhaps when he was no longer expected. The patience of those who await Him is always tested. And God arrived in a novel fashion, since he can always reinvent himself: as a fragile clay statue, darkened by the waters of the river and aged by the passage of time. God always enters clothed in poverty, littleness.
Then there is the statue itself of the Immaculate Conception. First, the body appeared, then the head; then the head was joined to the body: unity. What had been broken is restored and becomes one. Colonial Brazil had been divided by the shameful wall of slavery. Our Lady of Aparecida appears with a black face, first separated, and then united in the hands of the fishermen.
Here there is an enduring message which God wants to teach us. His own beauty, reflected in his Mother conceived without original sin, emerges from the darkness of the river. In Aparecida, from the beginning, God’s message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided. Walls, chasms, differences which still exist today are destined to disappear. The Church cannot neglect this lesson: she is called to be a means of reconciliation.
The fishermen do not dismiss the mystery encountered in the river, even if it is a mystery which seems incomplete. They do not throw away the pieces of the mystery. They await its completion. And this does not take long to come. There is a wisdom here that we need to learn. There are pieces of the mystery, like the stones of a mosaic, which we encounter, which we see. We are impatient, anxious to see the whole picture, but God lets us see things slowly, quietly. The Church also has to learn how to wait. Then the fishermen bring the mystery home. Ordinary people always have room to take in the mystery. Perhaps we have reduced our way of speaking about mystery to rational explanations; but for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart. In the homes of the poor, God always finds a place.
The fishermen “bundle up” the mystery, they clothe the Virgin drawn from the waters as if she were cold and needed to be warmed. God asks for shelter in the warmest part of ourselves: our heart. God himself releases the heat we need, but first he enters like a shrewd beggar. The fishermen wrap the mystery of the Virgin with the lowly mantle of their faith. They call their neighbors to see its rediscovered beauty; they all gather around and relate their troubles in its presence and they entrust their causes to it. In this way they enable God’s plan to be accomplished: first comes one grace, then another; one grace leads to another; one grace prepares for another. God gradually unfolds the mysterious humility of his power.
There is much we can learn from the approach of the fishermen. About a Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbors that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them. Only the beauty of God can attract. God’s way is through enticement, allure. God lets himself be brought home. He awakens in us a desire to keep him and his life in our homes, in our hearts. He reawakens in us a desire to call our neighbors in order to make known his beauty. Mission is born precisely from this divine allure, by this amazement born of encounter. We speak about mission, about a missionary Church. I think of those fishermen calling their neighbors to see the mystery of the Virgin. Without the simplicity of their approach, our mission is doomed to failure.
The Church needs constantly to relearn the lesson of Aparecida; she must not lose sight of it. The Church’s nets are weak, perhaps patched; the Church’s barque is not as powerful as the great transatlantic liners which cross the ocean. And yet God wants to be seen precisely through our resources, scanty resources, because he is always the one who acts.
Dear brothers, the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love. To be sure, perseverance, effort, hard work, planning and organization all have their place, but first and foremost we need to realize that the Church’s power does not reside in herself; it is hidden in the deep waters of God, into which she is called to cast her nets.
Another lesson which the Church must constantly recall is that she cannot leave simplicity behind; otherwise she forgets how to speak the language of Mystery. Not only does she herself remain outside the door of the mystery, but she proves incapable of approaching those who look to the Church for something which they themselves cannot provide, namely, God himself. At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people. Without the grammar of simplicity, the Church loses the very conditions which make it possible “to fish” for God in the deep waters of his Mystery.
2. …. Today, times have changed. As the Aparecida document nicely put it: ours is not an age of change, but a change of age. So today we urgently need to keep putting the question: what is that God is asking of us? I would now like to sketch a few ideas by way of a response.
3. The icon of Emmaus as a key for interpreting the present and the future before all else, we must not yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman: “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand”.
We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint. We have labored greatly and, at times, we see what appear to be failures. We feel like those who must tally up a losing season as we consider those who have left us or no longer consider us credible or relevant. Let us read once again, in this light, the story of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-15).
The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the “nakedness” of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day (vv. 17-21). Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church – their Jerusalem – can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.
Faced with this situation, what are we to do?
Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the “night” contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture.
I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts? A Church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles… Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?
Many people have left because they were promised something loftier, more powerful, and faster.
But what is loftier than the love revealed in Jerusalem? Nothing is loftier than the abasement of the Cross, since there we truly approach the height of love! Are we still capable of demonstrating this truth to those who think that the apex of life is to be found elsewhere? Beauty?
Do we know anything more powerful than the strength hidden within the weakness of love, goodness, truth and people today are attracted by things that are faster and faster: rapid Internet connections, speedy cars and planes, instant relationships. But at the same time we see a desperate need for calmness, I would even say slowness. Is the Church still able to move slowly: to take the time to listen, to have the patience to mend and reassemble? Or is the Church herself caught up in the frantic pursuit of efficiency? Dear brothers, let us recover the calm to be able to walk at the same pace as our pilgrims, keeping alongside them, remaining close to them, enabling them to speak of the disappointments present in their hearts and to let us address them. They want to forget Jerusalem, where they have their sources, but eventually they will experience thirst. We need a Church capable of accompanying them on the road back to Jerusalem A Church capable of helping them to rediscover the glorious and joyful things that are spoken of Jerusalem, and to understand that she is my Mother, our Mother, and that we are not orphans! We were born in her. Where is our Jerusalem, where were we born? In Baptism, in the first encounter of love, in our calling, in vocation.
Dear brothers, unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey? It isn’t true that God’s presence has been dimmed in them. Let us learn to look at things more deeply. What is missing is someone to warm their heart, as was the case with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32).
Permanent state of mission and pastoral conversion
Aparecida spoke about a permanent state of mission and of the need for pastoral conversion. These are two important results of that Assembly for the entire Church in the area, and the progress made in Brazil on these two points has been significant.
Concerning mission, we need to remember that its urgency derives from its inner motivation; in other words, it is about handing on a legacy. As for method, it is essential to realize that a legacy is about witness, it is like the baton in a relay race: you don’t throw it up in the air for whoever is able to catch it, so that anyone who doesn’t catch it has to manage without. In order to transmit a legacy, one needs to hand it over personally, to touch the one to whom one wants to give, to relay, this inheritance.
Concerning pastoral conversion, I would like to recall that “pastoral care” is nothing other than the exercise of the Church’s motherhood. She gives birth, suckles, gives growth, corrects, nourishes and leads by the hand … So, we need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy. Without mercy we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of “wounded” persons in need of understanding, forgiveness, love. (Awesome words from Pope Francis)
In mission, also on a continental level, it is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church; young people, who are the face of the Church’s future; women, who play a fundamental role in passing on the faith. Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. By losing women, the Church risks becoming sterile.
Towards the end of the press conference, Vatican insider reported that the Holy Father was asked regarding a rumored “gay lobby” within the Vatican. “There is so much written about the ‘gay lobby’. I have to find someone in the Vatican who has ‘gay’ written on their ID card,” the Pope said. “Lobbies, all lobbies, are not good.”
“If a person is gay,” the Pope continued, “and he is searching for the Lord with good will, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against but received. The problem is not about having these tendencies, the problem is to lobby it and this goes the same for business lobbies, political lobbies, and Masonic lobbies.” (End of quote)
Here I want to add something that I have been praying for and which I had given to my own local pastor to pray for a few months in order if I should divulge it or not. I learned about it just 2 years ago (2011). It was a piece of science that I found in a book as described below. I even made a summary and posted it in the section of “pages” in this blog site, but omitted what I will share. I needed to pass this information and place it in the Internet because we need to learn what a same sex attraction is all about.
SOURCE of information: “The Human Brain Book” was published in London in 2009 by Rita Carter with several contributors. She is a science and medicine writer, and had as consulters, Professor Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuro-Psychology of U. College of London, U.K. and Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development from the same College. The book is composed of mostly photos, drawings and scans with respective written facts at the side. NO PERMISSION WAS OBTAINED FROM THE AUTHOR TO COPY THESE FACTS.
“Everyone’s brain is different – gender and sexual orientation are reflected by changes in the brain’s anatomy and functioning. The brains of right handed and left handed people are organized differently. And even social and cultural influences can shape the way the brain carries out certain tasks.
“THE GENDERED BRAIN. A number of structural and functional differences have been found between male and female brains…. This may be why women are more emotionally aware – the more emotional right side is connected to the more analytical left side of the brain… When doing complex tasks, women use both sides of their brain, while men use the side more obviously suited to the task.
“THE GAY BRAIN. Brain scans show how, in homosexual people, important brain structures involved in mood, emotion, anxiety and aggression tend to resemble those of heterosexuals of the opposite sex. Heterosexual men tend to have asymmetric brains, with the right hemisphere slightly larger than the left, a characteristic shared by gay women. Patterns of brain connectivity are similar between heterosexual women and gay men, particularly in areas involved with anxiety. “ End of quotes.
The book shows pictures of brain scans to be identical between heterosexual men and homosexual women. Also pictures of brain scans which look identical between homosexual men and heterosexual women. In more clear words, the right brain of gay men look like the right brain of women and therefore they feel attracted to other men. The right brains of gay women look like the right brain of men, and therefore they feel attracted to women.
As you can see, homosexuality existed even at the times of Abraham and Lot… There are genes that give a different configuration to the right brain of men and women with same sex attraction. We need to understand this to remember the following:
1. It is not a disorder. It is a genetic expression as depicted in page 194 of this book. Therefore, is not curable per se because it is not a disease. Or said differently we cannot pray for our skin to be lighter or for our eyes to have a different color… It is what the gene expression of the chromosomes that our parents give us.
2. We need to pray for them but with love in order for them to remain chaste, which the Word of God advises. We cannot truly love them if we think this is a disorder. On the contrary, we must understand that they live with a major cross on their shoulders. Any prayer on our part, to be effective in helping them to carry this cross, must be done with love.
3. We must think of the many “saints” who have this genetic makeup and live a chaste life out of love of God. Even before I knew this information, I never had any problem relating to gay brothers and sisters. In fact, I had a great friendship with an operating room nurse who was probably the best nurse I ever met in my business as an anesthesiologist. She lived with another woman, and yet, she was a dear friend. In another case, I had a great friendship for many years with a very dear male friend who lived as a heterosexual but had a same sex attraction.
And let me report to you that God probably was preparing this information to be made available in the Internet through my blogging because 1) I found the book by chance. 2) I had three gay women pursue me as a medical student, as a medical practitioner and in a previous parish. It was always very hard for me to realize it… I am heterosexual 200% and these experiences were extremely disagreeable, especially because one does not know what is going on until suddenly the diagnosis is made and one has to retrieve ASAP. How I wished to have seen these brain scans much earlier in order for me to love my gay brothers and sisters as Jesus loves them. And let me be clear: I am not saying that I accept their life style when same sex unions and marriages are glorified as I am used to hear in this part of the nation. In the other hand, I see these men and women as human beings carrying a tremendous burden.
The fact that Pope Francis gave his opinion on homosexuality only gave me a great pleasure to find out how right he is. Amazing wisdom.
V. What I learned from WYD 2013
1) Having reviewed during these 5 days all the aspects of the Christian life, it was like going to a retreat but covering all angles. Thank you Lord for EWTN!
2) The joy of the crowds was contagious and reminded me of Jesus as He went to announce the good news.
3) The Via Crucis was a piece of art and theology reminding me that the way to God is through Calvary.
4) I saw the Church for what it truly is: majestic, the Bride of Christ governed by another member sitting at the Chair of Peter. Three million people together? Wow… I thanked God over and over for being a Catholic since a July 17… of yesteryears…
5) It helped me to receive a new impetus to go and tell others about Him. But one thing that was the best of all is that God was there alive… The Holy Spirit took over and made of this encounter between Peter and this young Church, a show of pure love… And of course, love produces hurricanes of joy and peace and order… and our Hurricane Francis was a category 5 or 6… I am wondering if we ever had a hurricane called Francis, and if not, if we have this name for a future one…
6) The weather was awful but did not dampen this encounter of Papa and the kids. In fact, the bad weather only confirmed more the faith of this young crowd.
7) Our Mom was highly honored over and over and I suspect that she was interceding for her children in a very special way.
8) The one thing that was clear and more than ever for me, it is the fact I that have to work day and night in LIVING MY LIFE IN A CONSTANT ENCOUNTER WITH THE CRUCIFIED.
9) I want to write about something that is bugging me. Our Holy Father was clear in telling these millions of young people what is expected of them, especially because they are the future of the Church. My own parish is becoming a magnet for the youth. And what I will say next will probably bother most of you but I must write it.
Bringing them to our churches or to an encounter in X country is magnificent but if these WYD’s have been occurring for more than two decades, why is it that we keep losing members for our Sunday Masses? The enthusiasm was extraordinary. Yet, what happens when they go home? Just getting them together at the local parishes will not do it completely…We are using old methods for new circumstances. We are now dealing with the social media that will distract these good young people in between encounters with each other. We older members need to start creating programs to lead these young ones to have an encounter with Christ. Our present programs, all of them, are sterile because we are dealing with forces that are hard to compete with.
I would like to state that we, the older generation (and I mean anybody older than 30) MUST WORK IN OUR OWN ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS… in order to pass it on… Our parishes must be training camps where we foster the health of our souls via specific programs to re-wire our brains and become malleable in the hands of the Holy Spirit. The Charismatic Movement was a dynamic joyful encounter of hundreds in different parts of the world… Alright, where is the fruit since our Sunday Mass attendance keeps sliding down. What happened? We failed by not taking seriously the call to holiness.
We can talk about holiness of life all we want but it will not take us any place. Holiness of life must be lived according to the Bible. He told us what to do: if we obey the commandments, the Holy Spirit will come and live with us (John 14). And by the way, we can get all we want through prayer. So, we could ask for a new Pentecost in our lives so that we can have all we need to obey the commandments. If the youth sees our transformation, I bet anyone that they will be inducted into the same obedience to the commandments and THEN, ONLY THEN, they will encounter the Crucified and they will proceed to make more disciples with younger generations. Our social media encounters and constant hunger for more communication CANNOT COMPETE with the encounter with Jesus that leads to holy lives. The power of the Holy Spirit is too much for all the gadgets and the Internet distractions.
I hate to preach but personally, I must run this race and give this God of love, all my attention by opening all the windows and doors of my inner temple. He established the rules in John 14-15. I must obey them. I CANNOT MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS until I become a true disciple myself. And discipleship was well defined by the Master. We cannot be half warm because He hates it. We have to be hot all the time BY DOING whatever He tells us. When are we going to wake up? Jesus was so clear… We have to feed them ourselves… And this feeding in spiritual terms is with our own holiness of life, which depends on our obedience to God. We have to become instruments of grace but TODAY… We must live each of our present moments doing what sanctifies that present moment. We must love God and neighbor at all cost and it starts with our death to self and our big yes to everything, whatever He wants for us and of us.
Our Pope said in Brazil: Mission is born precisely from this divine allure, by this amazement born of encounter. I add: and this encounter is born from our obedience to Him while our ego remains fixed in Jesus, under His power and love. LET US RUN!
Note: August is a super month in religious terms. On August 2, in Costa Rica we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Angels who appeared in the XVI C. On August 15, we have her Feast of the Assumption and it is Mother’s day in Costa Rica. On August 22 we celebrate her as the Queen of the Universe OR of the World as it is known in this Diocese, our patroness. It will be a great month to ask Our Lady in these huge Feasts in her honor to help us to become evangelists of our youth by our own transformation in Christ that leads to be holy. I also received the Sacrament of Confirmation on an August 4… at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.