Month: October 2016

BACK TO THE GARDEN FOR CLARITY

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“The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.“(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 390)

The revolt against an Infinite Love – God’s love –  first gathered momentum in that beautiful garden described in Genesis (a place which at first did not know sin). What happened to our first parents there that might help us understand what is going on in our culture at the present time? It is imperative for us to understand what happened there, so we can fix that inherited defect in ourselves (or at least battle against it). 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us what prompted our first parents to disobey God and sin:

“God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” spells this out: “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.” The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom” (no. 396).

“Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness” (no. 397).

“In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”  (no. 398).

The great theologian, Saint Thomas Aquinas, tells us that man first sinned by the desire to define for himself what is good and what is evil. Saint Thomas says that “man sinned primarily in aiming at a resemblance of God in virtue of which he should be capable of fixing for himself moral good and moral evil” (Summa Theologica, II-II, q.163, a. 2.).

Ralph Martin, in one of his talks, mentions that the devil seduced Adam and Eve into “contradicting God,” into believing that what God had said to them was not for their ultimate benefit. “Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives” (CCC, 399).

The analysis of sin in its original dimension,” says Saint Pope John Paul II,  indicates that, through the influence of the ‘father of lies,’ throughout the history of humanity there will be a constant pressure on man to reject God, even to the point of hating him” (DOMINUM ET VIVIFICANTEM no. 38). Here, then, is the situation we presently face: man is wholly intent on defining good and evil for himself without reference to God (“as if God wasn’t his ultimate happiness”). Vatican II stated, “For without the Creator the creature would disappear…when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible.” Man has become unintelligible…he no longer has any sense of who he is. G.K. Chesterton sensed this horrible predicament when he said that if you “take away the supernatural (God) what remains is the unnatural.” And what are we seeing right now, with the reemergence of our pagan line of descendants, but a rejection of God making man easy prey to “the malevolent force of sin which…lies in wait in the door of his heart” (Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, no. 8).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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THE GREAT AMERICAN APPARITION OF MARY TOOK PLACE IN WISCONSIN

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“I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief by the Christian faithful” (Bishop David Ricken, pictured above)

Many Catholics are familiar with the great supernatural facts of Lourdes and Fatima, but not enough Catholics (especially in the United States) are aware that the Virgin Mary appeared to Adele Brise in 1859 in Champion, Wisconsin with a message that focused on the importance of the Sacraments, catechesis of the young, and the salvation of sinners. To underscore the importance of this apparition, the U.S. Bishops in 2016 designated The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, the location of the apparitions, a National Shrine, this following the published approval of the apparition by the Bishop for the Diocese of Green Bay, Rev. David L. Ricken, on December 8, 2010, who declared on that date the following:

“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events in October of 1859, do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief by the Christian faithful.”

I understand that the approval of this apparition of Our Lady of Good Help makes it the only approved Marian apparition in the United States at the Diocesan level , which only serves to underscore its importance.

Bishop Ricken summarized the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Adele Brise very succinctly, stating:

Incessant prayer has gone up in this place based upon the word of a young Belgian immigrant woman, Adele Brise, who in October 1859 said that the Blessed Mother, a Lady clothed in dazzling white, had appeared to her on this site. The Lady was elevated slightly in a bright light and gave words of solace and comfort and a bold and challenging mission for the young immigrant woman. The Lady gave her a two-fold mission of prayer for the conversion of sinners and catechesis. “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners… Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation… Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.” Adele Brise began immediately to fulfill the mandate and mission entrusted to her by the Lady and oftentimes at great personal sacrifice went to the homes of the children to instruct them in the largely unsettled and forested area in Wisconsin. Adele was ever obedient to the authorities of the Church and steadfast in the mission entrusted to her by Our Lady, no matter what difficulty she encountered.

Twelve years after the appearance of Mary to Adele Brise there was an extraordinary, supernatural confirmation of the apparition’s authenticity. Specifically, in 1871 “the great fire of Northern Wisconsin”, historically known as the Peshtigo fire, took direct aim at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Boris and Natasha, who have researched the Peshtigo fire, provide an excellent summary of what then happened:

“The Peshtigo fire burned from southwest to northeast up both sides of the Bay.  It was a wildfire of immense proportions with hurricane force winds and 2,000 degree temperatures.  Nothing in its path survived and it was headed right for Our Lady of Good Help.

Unable to fight it and with no hope of outrunning it, the people headed for the only place they could think of – the church. The compound was now about five acres in size and enclosed by a white picket fence. No one knows how many people eventually crowded in but it was a large number. They brought their livestock with them and there were reports that forest animals were also inside the fence.

With the fire bearing down on them, Sister Adele led them in prayer.  They said the Rosary.  They kneeled in prayer at the altar. They walked around the chapel in a processional with a statue of Mary lifted high and pleaded for salvation. Soon the fire was all around them.  Flames arched over the compound.  People watched nearby farms explode in flames. The outside of the picket fence was charred black.  Before this night was over, the heat, the flames, the smoke, the poisoned air and the flying debris would destroy over one million acres (2400 square miles) of old growth forest, kill 2500 people and incinerate at least a dozen communities. It was the largest and deadliest fire in American history – before or since – but the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help was spared.

Morning brought a scene of total devastation as far as the eye could see.  It took years for the region to recover and some of the destroyed communities never re-built. In the middle of it was Our Lady of Good Help, a green oasis in a desert of destruction. Everyone and everything inside the fence were alive, uninjured and undamaged.  If the people of the Belgian colony ever had any doubts that the Virgin Mary had appeared to Adele, provided for her and protected her, there were none now.” [See their full article, with photos of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help and of Sister Adele Brise at the following link

First Marian apparition site in the US and survivor of the Peshtigo Fire]

CONCLUSION: The apparition of Our Lady of Good Help to Adele Brise in 1859 is of incredible importance to the Catholic Church in the United States and to all Catholics. A main focus of the apparition is the salvation of sinners and the need to teach the faith to the young. The reason for evangelization, the reason for catechesis, is so that people can be saved. If we don’t pass on the faith, the corresponding risk is the loss of salvation. What awesome and daunting responsibilities our Catholic faith has passed on to us. Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us.

Tom Mulcahy (see note below regarding my own visit to the Shrine)

 

Photo Attribution: The photograph of Bishop David L. Ricken, July 15, 2012, at Wikipedia, and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Ref. For a more detailed account of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help, see Sister Dominica Shallow’s short book, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help: a History (see shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com)

Postscript note: After wending our way through (and visiting) Mackinaw City and then Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we (my wife, daughter Bridget and I) drove southwestward into Wisconsin to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion (northeast of Green Bay). We were at the Shrine on July 31, 2014 and we went to Mass shortly thereafter. Below the Church is the crypt where the apparition took place. Little did I know it was the beginning of the Green Bay Packers’ training camp, which is a huge event! All the hotels we drove to after our Shrine visit were booked, so we had to drive all the way to Sturgeon Bay to find a hotel room, and all that hotel had available was the Bridal Suite! We were so tired, so we took the room and paid more than I wanted to! But it was worth it to visit the Shrine, and seeing Sturgeon Bay was beautiful.

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THE TEN BEST REASONS NOT TO GO TO CONFESSION

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1.You wish that Confession wasn’t available so close by at the church just up the street, as you would rather be required to take an exotic pilgrimage to a dangerous foreign land in order to have your sins forgiven.

2. You believe that people should be charged to go to Confession, and that the current price of zero dollars to go to Confession is not fair to the Church.

3. You believe that it is unjust and too generous on God’s part to let people go to Confession as many times as they want, and you believe that Confession should be limited to once a decade.

4. You believe the verse where Jesus gave his priests power to forgive sins, John 20:23, is a medieval forgery of a wayward bishop.

5. You believe that Confession should take longer than just a few minutes (your suggestion is two hours).

6. You believe that Confession should not be available at every church in the Diocese because then it becomes common and unexceptional.

7. You don’t believe we should confess our sins to another person, and your proof text for this belief is James 5:16 which says, “Confess your sins to one another.”

8. You believe the penances given out by priests are extraordinarily light, and you would much prefer manly mortifications of a somewhat impressive nature.

9. You believe the confidential seal of the Confessional makes your sins too secretive, and you would prefer that your Confession be posted verbatim on the internet as a prelude to the novel you intend to write, From Sinner to Saint.

10. You would prefer not to have all your sins forgiven and your slate wiped clean.

Tom

 

Note: The basis for this note comes from Father Faber, who suggests with irony that perhaps people would be more interested in Confession if the Pope made the sacrament more difficult to obtain as in having to travel to a foreign land after first completing extraordinary penances. It has been reported that Pope Francis goes to Confession approximately every two weeks.

 

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THE ROSARY IS AN INSTRUMENT OF PRAYER AND POWER

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             “The Rosary is a prayer that always accompanies me” (Pope Francis)

When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Mother Teresa in an apparition, as testified to by Saint Mother Teresa herself, she told Mother Teresa to teach families to say the rosary (Come Be My Light, Doubleday, p. 99). When Mary appeared in Lourdes and then at Fatima, she came wearing a rosary. Why the importance of the rosary? Because without prayer it is very difficult to overcome the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri: “Those who pray are certainly  saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (no. 2744). The “world” wants to drown out our desire for God: to make God irrelevant. As one person once said, “who needs God when you have a Cadillac?” The world places a high priority on things rather than God. Go to a mall: where is God to be found?

To remedy this downward pull of worldliness, we need prayer – especially prayer that is concentrated on the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection. The rosary accomplishes this need in a powerful way because it joins our sometimes very weak prayers to those of the Blessed Virgin whom Jesus loves with the most indescribable of loves. Mary presents our prayers to the Lord in a way that makes those prayers very pleasing to Him.

The great spiritual writer of the 19th century, F.W. Faber, whom The Catholic Encyclopedia calls “a master” of the mystical life, says in one of his books that “I cannot conceive a man as being spiritual who does not habitually say the rosary” (Growth in Holiness), and Faber was a convert. He justifies this strong statement by saying that if we are going to persevere in the faith we need to perpetually keep Mary and Jesus before us: and that is what the rosary does. He mentions that the rosary combines vocal and mental prayer, presumably meaning that it strengthens our interior lives and aids in contemplating the presence of God. It is Mary’ prayer: it is a prayer, as Faber states, that has been strongly sanctioned by the Church and the saints.

There is a “strange seduction” in the world that draws our hearts away from the one true good that we all need: God. The rosary is the antidote to this deception.  As Deacon Marc once said, the rosary repels evil and promotes virtue. The Blessed Virgin always has our best interests in mind, to wit: prayer and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We should pray the rosary with great love and confidence: it is a devotion very dear to our Lord’s heart.

My friend: say the rosary as often as possible. Devotion to Mary is the “safety of souls.”

“All for Jesus,”

Tom (see note below regarding the miraculous image used in this post)

P.S. In notes published after his death, the following was said by Father Faber: “In consequence of all these blessings [from saying the Rosary], the devil makes the Rosary a special subject of temptations, weariness, contempt, and the like. Persevere in it, and it will itself be the chain of your own final perseverance.” He also calls the rosary “an instrument of power.”  Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, p. 308

Image: Black Madonna of Częstochowa (Public Domain, U.S.A.). Pope Francis prayed in front of this famous icon during his recent World Youth Day visit to Poland in July of 2016. According to Joan Carroll Cruz, “the miracles attribited to Our Lady of Czestochowa are numerable and spectacular.” When my daughter Bridget Mulcahy visited the image in question at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Poland (during her WYD pilgrimage) she took the following photograph of the “wall of crutches” there which speaks to the miraculous, healing intercession of Our Lady of Czesochowa. Thanks Bridget!

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