Month: May 2016



“The personal inability to perceive truth and beauty is related…to a lack of wonder….It is troubling that in a universe replete with mind-boggling fascinations masses of people live dull and drab lives” (The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay).

We are talking here about what Father Thomas Dubay calls “being alive to beauty,” especially beauty in the external/natural world, and also about the impediments which prevent us from perceiving, experiencing and living beauty. Our conclusion will be that beauty can be trans-formative – truly enhancing our well-being –  if we are open to it.

Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This means, in one context, that if we are looking at a beautiful river we should spend some time peering into it –contemplating it – so that we may receive the vital influx of its beauty. Father Irala says that we should let the beauty “enter deep into us.”

Pope Francis made this observation in his recent encyclical on the environment, saying, “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty” (no. 45). Thus, one formidable impediment to experiencing the beauty of the natural world can simply be our access to it. Another obstacle, as Father Dubay points out, is our lack of wonder. We need to nurture a desire to explore and experience the beauty of the natural world, freeing ourselves from that technological world of artificially created images that keep us trapped in a world of inner-subjectivity detached from truth and beauty.

But most of all I want to stress in this note the mechanics of being receptive to beauty in the natural world, a simple process which will have powerful and tangible results. Father Irala calls this process the “reeducation of receptive power.” It is critical that we re-learn to be receptive to the beauty of the external world and the vital influx of its beauty.

Father Irala laments that many of us fail to have “clear sensations” of the beauty of the external world. “Only rarely,” he says, do we come out into the exterior world, beautiful and joyful as it was created by God” (especially if we are experiencing emotional difficulties). We are preoccupied, worried, and caught up in our own subjective world. Some people even find it difficult to put down their cell phones as they walk along a beautiful nature trail.

However, we can relearn to receive the true “sensations” of nature’s beauty. Here are instructions given by Father Irala to improve our receptive power in areas of sight and sound.

Sight: “For your re-education you should apply your sense of sight for about ten or twenty seconds to a landscape, an object, a detail. Keep a tranquil or almost passive attention. Take your time. Consider the object before you and no other. Pay no attention to any other idea. Let the object enter within you as it is in itself, without any special effort. Look at it the way a young child does. [Remain] loose and relaxed.”

Hearing: “Apply your hearing to a near or distant noise. Let yourself be penetrated by the sounds, as above, naturally, without mental discussion of the fact or its cause. Be a mere receiver of sound and perceive it with pleasure and relaxation.”


Father Irala tells an interesting story about a businessman who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was apparently felt that the overworked businessman needed some time away from his hectic office to unwind and rejuvenate, but since this remedy wasn’t feasible his physician requested that “an aquarium of tropical fish built in his private office and that he spend an hour every day peacefully watching the graceful convolutions of those little creatures.” It is related that “before the year was out he sent a donation to [his physician’s] hospital as a token of gratitude for his cure” (p.41).


“At first,” says Father Irala, it is not so easy to practice these fully conscious sensations with no attention at all paid to anything else. So, in your first attempts, you might find yourself thinking about the process itself, or the cause, effect, or some circumstances, instead of what you perceive. But in a few days, after a series of good tries, you will succeed in separating the pure sensation from accessory mental processes. And then you will find joy or rest in the sensation itself.”

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation: “The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

And the great Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, states: “The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty is even rendered enormous in us, and well nigh-indispensable…only sense knowledge possesses perfectly in man the intuitiveness required for the perception of the beautiful.”

In conclusion, our senses open to us a world of incredible beauty that has a “deep restorative power” to heal us and make us happy. We can train ourselves to be more perceptive to the “clear sensations” and the “vital influx” of the beauty of the natural world. To shut ourselves off from this beauty is certainly unwise and most likely harmful. But to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the natural world is profoundly healthy and rejuvenating – the way God meant it to be.


Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Achieving Peace of Heart by Father N. Irala and The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay.

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“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:54)

God has Eternal Life in Himself. In fact, Eternity is one of His Infinite perfections. Stunningly, he calls us to share in His Eternal Blessedness, to become partakers of His Divine nature, to share in His Eternal joy! “In the preaching of Jesus,” says the great Dominican scholar Father Garrigou-LaGrange,“everything is directed immediately toward eternal life.” This statement alone is a marvelous revelation of the underlying mission of Jesus. Jesus leads us to Eternal Life and gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist to securely accomplish this objective.

The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of Eternal Life left to the Church by Jesus Christ. “Through the food of the Eucharist,” writes Saint John Paul II, “Christ’s eternal life penetrates and flows within human life. Therefore, as St. Thomas Aquinas writes, the Eucharist is ‘the culmination of the spiritual life and the goal of all the sacraments.'”

The Eucharist is, therefore, simply the most important “thing” there is on planet earth! With the exception of its sister sacraments and the entire order of grace, everything else on planet earth pales in comparison to the value of the Eucharist. If you have made your First Holy Communion, you have entered into a superior order of existence directed immediately at securing for you the gift of Eternal Life.

Jesus, whose very words as Eternal Wisdom triumph infallibly over the carnal prudence of worldly wise men, directs us to eat his body and to drink his blood. His very words at instituting the Eucharist on Holy Thursday assure us that this is the sacrament of the “new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22: 20 ). And during his Eucharistic discourse, Jesus emphatically stated: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life….” (John 6:53-54).

Why are our hearts not more on fire for the Holy Eucharist? Why do we have such an appetite for “petty, peripheral things”? The degree to which our lives should be focused on the Holy Eucharist really should be nothing short of extraordinary. “If thou didst know the gift of God” (John 4:10).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: The Creator and the Creature by F.W. Faber (discussing, among other things, God’s Infinite Perfections); The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-Lagrange; Saint Pope John Paul II, General Audience of April 8, 1992 which contained the quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas found at Summa Theol., III, q66, a. 6) ; the terms ‘carnal prudence” and “worldly wise-man” are from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress; Dietrich Von Hilderbrand used the expression, “petty, peripheral things.” Catholic theologians explain that “God has life in Himself.” “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

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“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spiritwhom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

If truth be told we were created to be great lovers of God, and hopefully our happy eternity will be just that! Tauler, the renowned mystic and Dominican, says in one of his sermons that “so incomprehensible is the Holy Spirit in His greatness, so infinite in His loving richness, that all His greatness and infinity eludes any image our human reason could form.” Words like these, meditated on, will no doubt increase our love for God.

A basic principle of our faith (which, from time to time, eludes us) is that, due to our fallen nature, we do not have the capacity to truly love God, but rather, as the spiritual writers lament, we are turned towards self (away from God) and we tend to find our repose in created things.

In short, to love God, we must be born again from above (see John 3:1-21). Thus God is forced, so to speak, to give us a commandment to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27), but even then we find this beautiful commandment hard to put into practice. We are like that desperate soul at the end of the seventh chapter of Romans who cries out: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24). And how does Saint Paul respond to this cry of help? He writes the eighth chapter of Romans wherein Paul mentions the Holy Spirit (or Spirit) some eighteen times. The solution to this person’s distress – and ours too – is the Holy Spirit!

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the “angelic doctor,” says three amazing things about the Holy Spirit that I would like to bring to your attention. I use the adjective “amazing” because what he says is truly awesome! These three statements of Saint Thomas, set forth below, are drawn from three separate documents (see references below):


Comment: The foundation of all true love is the Holy Spirit. The bond of love uniting God the Father and God the Son is the Holy Spirit. “God is love” (1 John 3: 23). We thus begin to live and love, as Father Leen points out, by the very life of God!


Comment: The way we keep the commandments, including the great commandment to love God and neighbor, is through the power of the Holy Spirit – which is a towering theme in Romans, chapter eight.


Comment: The very love which unites the Holy Trinity, which is the Holy Spirit, is also given to us, so that we can love God with His own love! We are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

In light of the above discussion, and the illuminating insights of Saint Thomas Aquinas, what profound devotion we should have to our interior guest, the Holy Spirit! We need the Holy Spirit in order to love God, and God graciously – through the merits of Jesus Christ – gives Him to us! Listen to Saint Paul:

 “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spiritwhom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

“If you only knew what the gift of God is” (John 4:10).

 Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


ReferencesThe quote from Tauler is found on page 91 of The Classics of Western Spirituality: Johannes Tauler Sermons.        With respect to the first quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas, Blessed Abbot Marmion in Christ, The Life Of The Soul quotes Saint Thomas on page 17: “Therefore the Spirit who instills in us the love with which God loves Himself is called the Holy Spirit.” The second quote from Saint Thomas appears on page 255 of Holy Spirit of God  by F.X. Durrwell (Servant Books), and fully reads: “The new law which is the Holy Spirit in person.” The third quote from Saint Thomas appears on page 46 of Volume I, The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, by Father Garrigou-LaGrange (TAN Books), and reads in full: “Therefore, because the Holy Spirit makes us lovers of God, it follows that by the Holy Spirit that we are constituted contemplators of God….” Fathers Grou and Garrigou-LaGrange make the point that as the result of original sin and actual sin, we are “turned away from God” and fixated on self and things. With respect to the reference to Father Leen, see pages 63-70 of his book, The Holy Spirit (Scepter Press).

Image: The Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1475 (Public Domain, U.S.A.) In baptism we received the great gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our soul along with sanctifying grace.

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“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spiritwhom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

Saint Pope John Paul II‘s encyclical on the Holy SpiritDominum et Vivificantem, contains wonderful insights into the nature and mission of the Holy Spirit. In this short note, I will discuss the concept or revelation of the Holy Spirit as “Person-Gift” as developed by John Paul II in the encyclical.

You get married. What an incredible gift you have been given by God: the gift of another person. Truly, excepting God and grace, it is hard to fathom a greater gift than this – your spouse. Marital love then blossoms into the gift of another person: a child destined to praise God for all eternity! These are amazing gifts. These are persons made in the image and likeness of God.

 In Dominum et Vivificantem John Paul II points out that in the Old Testament “the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden” (17). But in the New Testament the “Holy Spirit is revealed in a new and fuller way,” not only as a gift from Jesus but as a “Person-Gift” (22). Just as Jesus Christ in His Incarnation is a Person-gift from the Father, so too is the Holy Spirit a Person-gift from God the Father and Jesus. This giving of the Holy Spirit as a gift to us is truly the greatest of all possible gifts, for the Holy Spirit is the “personal love” proceeding from the Father and the Son, which John Paul II calls “uncreated Love-Gift.” It is “through the Holy Spirit [that] God exists in a mode of gift” (10).The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (10).

In light of the above insights of John Paul II we can begin to understand why Jesus was so anxious to leave the apostles and return to the Father (“If I go, I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you,” John 16:7): Jesus wanted the apostles – and us – to receive the ultimate gift of His love – the “Person-Gift” and the “Person-Love” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life”; he is the “Infinite Spirit” of love and the “inexhaustible source” of eternal life. Our Lord’s death, Resurrection and Ascension therefore converge to bring forth a most incredible gift: “The Holy Spirit as a Person who is the gift” (23).

The “eternal love” of the Father and the Son is a Person-Gift: this Person-Gift is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the final gift, the gift of God’s own life within us, justifying us, sanctifying us, filling our hearts with love, a love “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). And so we say, with renewed fervor, in the words of that ancient hymn of the church, Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. Mary’s life began (as the Immaculate Conception) in profound union with the Holy Spirit, and the angel greets her accordingly as “full of grace.” The progress of the spiritual life is to draw ever closer to the Holy Spirit. It is thus that Saint Louis DeMontfort has such high regard for the prayer,Veni Creator Spiritus. The basic or fundamental truth is that we are made whole, or become our true selves, when united to God. Mary was given this gift of union with God from the very beginning. Mary is our model in the spiritual life.

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Franciscus_kotel (1)

“Male and female God created them” (Genesis 1:28)

“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia)

The quote set forth above from Pope Francis is from his recently released Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. In that exhortation Pope Francis also indicated that the sex education of the young “should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension to cancel out sexual differences….” (#285). Parents therefore have a serious obligation to find out whether their kid’s school is involved in any immoral conduct which would encourage gender identity confusion (see Gender Ideology Harms Children | American College of Pediatricians).

In his highly publicized encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis makes some fascinating insights into the ecology of the human body. There can be little doubt that Pope Francis has a thorough knowledge of Saint John Paul II’s well known “theology of the body,” and Francis mentions explicitly in his encyclical Pope Benedict’s “ecology of man.” Pope Francis states that a genuine human ecology involves the acceptance of our bodies in the male and female forms in which nature gives them to us. He states that it is “not a healthy attitude” which would seek to “cancel out sexual differences” between men and women.

These words of our Holy Father are found in section 155 of Laudato Si, under the heading, “Ecology and Daily Life,” and are set forth below:

155. Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.

The Holy Father Francis also spoke, just days prior to the release of the encyclical, these important words:

“… Being parents is based on the diversity of being male and female, as the Bible reminds us. This is the ‘first’ and most fundamental difference, constitutive of the human being. It is a wealth. Differences are wealth. “We men learn to recognize, through the female figures we encounter in life, the extraordinary beauty that women bear. And women follow a similar path, learning from male figures that the man is different and has his own way of feeling, understanding and living. And this communion in difference is very important also in the education of children”. (Pope Francis,  June, 2015)

In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis also stated that homosexual marriage is not part of God’s plan for marriage and family. The Pope stated:

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”   It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”(#251)

In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis specifically referenced Section 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states in full: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” These “families,” said the Pope, “should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives” (Amoris Laetitia,  #250).

Marriage between a man and a woman is deeply embedded in the wisdom of creation and the ecology of the body. Pope Francis makes this point in a beautiful way in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, which he reaffirmed in the recently released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, a truth Jesus affirms in the most radical way possible (see Matt. 19: 3-10).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Photo: Pope Francis praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014 available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

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“This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.”  (CCC 1287)

We poor creatures, “married as we are to our senses”, need images in order to mediate to our minds the presence of God.  As Father Karl Adam states in his classic, The Spirit of Catholicism, “God’s revelation makes use of human instruments, the infinite of the finite; the ineffable and the transcendent is clothed in visible forms and signs.” In order to draw closer to the Holy Spirit it is helpful to present to our mind images that represent or mediate to us the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity in our lives. Relying on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this note discusses some of the common symbols of the Holy Spirit that assist us in calling to mind and sensing His presence in our lives. These symbols are: fire, air, wind, water, the dove, and oil. 


Comment: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions. “Do not quench the Spirit (696).”

               Then [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” 
    (John 20:22)

 Father Faber draws heavily on this image, stating:

Then I pictured Him [the Holy Spirit] as if He were the view-less air, which I breathed, which was my life as if the air were He, going into me and coming out, and He a Divine Person, sweetly envious of the Son, sweetly coveting the Sacred Humanity which He Himself had fashioned, and coming into the world on beautifulest mission, seeking to be as near incarnate as He could be without an actual incarnation; and it was so near that he seemed almost human, though unincarnate.And this was the clearest view I ever could see of that Divine Person. May he forgive what I have written of Him…and bear with me a little longer, till I have dawn my last breath in Him, and breathed it forth again as my first breath of another life, a fresh son newly born at the Feet of the Eternal Father (Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, Vol. 1, p.98)!” See note on symbols at the end of this post.



Comment: The rushing wind at Pentecost (Acts 2:2) invokes this symbol. Every rush of wind, every breeze, can serve as a powerful reminder of the Holy Spirit.



Comment: Water is a powerful image of the Holy Spirit, and most especially in the Gospel of John:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)

See also CCC 694.  Just like we need water to live, so too do we need the Holy Spirit for spiritual life. We use water to cleanse and nourish us: these are images which draw us into the life of the Holy Spirit. We can also use Holy water in our homes.



The peaceful dove is a wonderful image of the Holy Spirit. The CCC discusses the symbol of the dove in the following manner:

“The dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable. When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him. The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized. In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove (columbarium) suspended above the altar. Christian iconography traditionally uses a dove to suggest the Spirit (701).”



Oil can remind us that we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit by virtue of our baptism and Confirmation. Blessed
oils are sacramentals which we can use in our own homes. The CCC states:

Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David. But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.” The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord. The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving. Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”: “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression (695)



These symbols of the Holy Spirit help us to image the invisible Holy Spirit. They are aids. The Holy Spirit is not air or water. We are not pantheists. However, God is present in nature by his power, presence and essence. Moreover, the Holy Spirit does truly indwell in our souls by sanctifying grace. “Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Photos: The lead image is a picture of a stained glass representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, circa 1660, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Public Domain, U.S.A.). The final image (immediately above) of Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, by Fidelis Schabet, 1867 (photo image released into the public domain by the author per Wikipedia).


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“A stern warning has been launched from that place [Fatima] that is directed against the prevailing frivolity, a summons to the seriousness of life, of history, to the perils that threaten humanity. It is that which Jesus Himself recalls very frequently: ‘Unless you repent you will all perish.'” (Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger)

The continuity and importance of the Fatima apparitions was manifested by the papacy of Saint John Paul II who beatified two of the three Fatima seers, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, on May 13, 2000. It is well known that “Pope John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following the assassination attempt on Wednesday, May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, in 1981.” Thereafter, Pope John Paul II visited the Shrine in Fatima, Portugal three times.

Pope Francis’ pontificate was entrusted to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2013. And in May of 2010 Pope Benedict visited Fatima . The Pope Emeritus is linked to Fatima by the very fact that as Cardinal Ratzinger he authored the church’s official explanation of the third Fatima secret (see link below to the actual text of the famous third secret and the commentary of Cardinal Ratzinger). This is all very mysterious to us, but the curious thing about Fatima to me is not so much its mysterious nature but rather the compelling – or should I say overwhelming – objectivity of the final apparition. Really, one would be hard-pressed to doubt that something truly magnificent happened on that amazing day! I am referring to the “miracle of the sun” which occurred on October 13, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal (see directly below an actual photograph of the crowd that day at the Cova da Iria where the miracle took place).


In any event, I gathered up some of my Fatima books and reviewed the compelling facts which point to the validity of the Fatima apparitions. From my own review of the facts it would appear that the following circumstances are established beyond any reasonable doubt:

1. The Fatima children (the seers seen in the photograph above) made known that the Virgin Mary would return to the Cova da Iria on October 13, 1917 and that a miracle would take place at that time to authenticate the apparitions;

2. That a huge crowd, most definitely in the tens of thousands, showed up at the Cova that day to see what might take place, and;

3. That (as also reported in the secular press) at the appointed time and place a spectacular solar phenomenon took place which, as the well respected Catholic author Thomas Walsh states, has been established “beyond any doubt” (p. 150, Our Lady of Fatima).

Francis Johnston sets forth many credible testimonies of this solar miracle in his book, Fatima: The Great Sign, including verbatim descriptions of the event from the secular and atheistic press (see chapter 5). In summary, then, the sign promised by the seers to take place on October 13, 1917 did in fact occur. By any reasonable standard of authenticating evidence, the events mentioned above have been firmly and most definitely established. My sense of Fatima is, well, given what took place, pay very close attention to its message.

But the message of Fatima was not an easy one for modern ears, especially with its emphasis on conversion, penance and living an expiatory life-style (in many respects it sounded back to the Gospel message of repent and turn away from sin, reflected not only in John the Baptist and Jesus but in all the writers of the New Testament).

In the strange occurrences following Vatican II, there was a mad rush in certain Catholic circles to redefine Catholicism and, most especially, to rewrite the moral theology text books, with this aim: to make sin, and especially sexual sin, more acceptable. A desperate attempt was made, to varying degrees and progressively, to approve contraception, masturbation, active homosexuality and even abortion (and incredible damage was done to the church, to Catholics and to society by the confusion and immorality which followed, a price we are paying dearly for today).

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit sent us Saint John Paul II, the Fatima Pope, who put the brakes on this mischief (and foul interpretation of Vatican II) by issuing two incredibly important encyclicals: The Splendor of Truth and The Gospel of Life. Even now, given all the harm done, the church is still in recovery mode.

At Fatima, Mary came to us as Our Lady of the Rosary. She came to warn us that God is deeply offended by sin (and our lack of repentance). She offered us the safety and security of her Immaculate heart and, among other things, she urged us to pray the daily rosary. Dear friend, those rosary beads are one of the most powerful weapons we have to turn away from sin, purify our hearts, and draw closer to Jesus. Dear friend, pray the rosary!!

Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

P.S. The new and excellent movie, The 13th Day, is a wonderful way to reappropriate the Fatima message. It is reported that Pope Francis intends to visit Fatima in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. The lead quote from Cardinal Ratzinger is at page 110 of The Ratzinger Report (Ignatius Press). Here is a link to the official text of The Third Secret of Fatima and the official Vatican commentary on it:

The Message of Fatima –

Vatican radio on May 11, 2016 reported the following :”Pope Francis on Wednesday said Our Lady of Fatima “invites us once again to turn to prayer, penance, and conversion.”The Holy Father noted the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is commemorated this year on this Friday (13 May) during his remarks to Polish-speaking pilgrims at his General Audience.“She asks us to never offend God again. She forewarns all humanity about the necessity of abandoning oneself to God, the source of love and mercy,” Pope Francis said.“Following the example of St. John Paul II, a great devotee of Our Lady of Fatima, let us listen attentively to the Mother of God and ask for peace for the world,” – he continued – “Praised be Jesus Christ!”Thirty-five years ago, Pope St. John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Ağca during the General Audience, which took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981.The saint attributed his survival to Our Lady, and gave one of the bullets used in the attack to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. The bullet was placed in the crown of the statue of the Virgin Mary which is housed at the shrine.”

Photographs: Public Domain, U.S.A. per Wikipedia.

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 “…there are Catholics who do not see clearly enough the necessity of having recourse to Mary that they may attain to intimacy with the Savior” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I, page 119, by Father Garrigou-LaGrange)

Very important spiritual lessons can be learned from studying the lives of the saints. Indeed, studying the lives of the saints, and how they grew in holiness, is one of the most important things we can do in the spiritual life. This concept of imitating the lives of the saints is expressed in the New Testament by Saint Paul when he says at 1 Cor. 4:16, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” The saints show us how to imitate Christ.

In  my own lifetime it is hard to think of two people who drew closer to Jesus Christ than Saint Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And if the greatness of a saint is judged, in part, by the souls they led to Jesus and salvation, then the influence of Mother Teresa and John Paul II is truly staggering. What then are we to make of the meteoric rise to Beatification and then Canonization of both Saint John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I understand that their Beatifications were two of the fastest ever in the history of the modern church, and Mother Teresa will be canonized on September 4, 2016)? Our examination of their lives discloses a profoundly important fact; namely, that both of these “saints” were molded in the “school of Mary,” having consecrated their lives to the Blessed Virgin.


A profound lesson to be learned from examining the lives of Saint John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is thus that devotion to Mary – and even more so, consecration – is a powerful aid to growing closer to Jesus Christ. Both John Paul II and Mother Teresa were profoundly consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, both according to the method proposed by Saint Louis DeMontfort in True Devotion to Mary. Father Joseph Langford has written about Mother Teresa’s mystical relationship with Mary in an awesome book entitled, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady. In that book Father Langford describes in detail the nature of Mother Teresa’s profound consecration to Mary.

As to Pope John Paul II, he pointed to his consecration to Mary as a turning point in his life, saying:

‘The reading of this book (True Devotion to Mary) was a decisive turning-point in my life. I say “turning-point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey. . . – This “perfect devotion” is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.’

A book explaining Blessed John Paul II’s consecration to Mary is Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment by Father Arthur B. Calkins.

Vom 15. bis 19. November 1980 besuchte Seine Heiligkeit Papst Johannes Paul II. die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Auf Einladung von Bundespräsident Karl Carstens hat der Papst seinen pastoralen Besuch mit einem offiziellen in Bonn verbunden. Am 15. November gab der Bundespräsident einen Empfang zu Ehren Seiner Heiligkeit auf Schloß Augustusburg in Brühl bei Bonn. Dort führte Papst Johannes Paul II. auch ein Gespräch mit Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt. Gleichzeitig traf Bundesaußenminister Hans-Dietrich Genscher mit Kardinal-Staatssekretär Casaroli zusammen. Im Anschluß an den offiziellen Teil begab sich der Papst auf den Bonner Münsterplatz, um dort eine Ansprache zu halten. Ferner bestand der pastorale Teil aus Besuchen in Köln, Osnabrück, Mainz, Fulda, Altötting und München. In allen diesen Städten hielt Papst Johannes Paul II. die Heilige Messe. Eigentlicher Anlaß seines Aufenthaltes in der Bundesrepublik war der 700. Todestag von Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), dessen Grab der Papst in Köln besuchte. Bundespräsident Karl Carstens und Papst Johannes Paul II. auf Schloß Augustusburg in Brühl.

I am currently reading Father Edmund’s biography of Saint Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, an order of priests dedicated to the love of Jesus crucified. Saint Paul of the Cross was an extraordinary man who practiced the most austere penances and was raised to a very high level of mystical union with God (“the transforming union”) by the relatively early age of around thirty years old. And as with all the saints, the Blessed Virgin played a critical role in his spiritual development and was also instrumental in helping him to establish his new order of priests.

An even more modern saint is Saint Faustina Kowalska, the “visionary of Divine Mercy” to whom Jesus appeared and through whom He established the Divine Mercy devotion. If you read her diary, the tremendous scope of her devotion to Mary becomes obvious and palpable. In her diary (79) she wrote this beautiful prayer of consecration to the Virgin Mary:

O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer You my soul, my body, my life and my death, and all that will Follow it. I place everything in Your hands. O my Mother, cover my soul with Your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with Your power against all enemies, and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue. O lovely lily! You are for me a mirror, O my Mother!

The lesson to be learned, then, is that devotion to Mary is an “essential” component of our faith in Jesus Christ, and that the lives of the saints prove – truly beyond any doubt – that devotion to the Mother of God leads to greater union with Jesus Christ. In our own time, this point is demonstrated in a remarkable manner by Saint John Paul the II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Thus, in the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, we are told:

“All should devoutly venerate [Mary] and commend their life and apostolate to her maternal care.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: Chapter V of Growth In Holiness by Father Faber; Chapter VI, The Influence of Mary Mediatrix, in Volume I of The Three Ages of the Interior Life; and True Devotion to Mary by Saint Louis DeMontfort. If you are interested in making the total consecration to Jesus through Mary, I recommend the book, Preparation for Total Consecration, put out by The Apostolate for Family Consecration (or Preparation for Total Consecration by Montfort Publications).

Images: The Virgin of the Lilies, Public Domain, U.S.A. (at Wikipedia). The photo Of Pope John Paul II is by Lothar Schaack, November 15, 1980, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license (found at Wikipedia). The photo of Mother Teresa is by Turelio, July 13, 1986 under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license (found at Wikipedia).

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