Month: July 2018

OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP: AN APPROVED MARIAN APPARITION NEAR GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN

bishop_david_ricken_lifest_2012_sermon

“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). Father Garrigou-Lagrange uses the phrase, “great, supernatural facts.”

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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ON THE SURFACE OF PLANET EARTH EACH MORNING

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26)

“The Mass is like the sun which daily illumines and warms all Christian life.” (Saint John Fisher)

On the surface of planet earth each morning the reenactment of Calvary-Love takes place in so many thousands of venues around the world – making present to us the only sacrifice capable of saving us. Life on planet earth is about salvation: it is a salvation history story. It is a story different from any other story because crucial chapters of this salvation story completed two thousand years ago are vividly made real to us each morning when Mass is said: and not only in Jerusalem (where Jesus said the first Mass) but in practically every country in the world, day in and day out, “until He comes.”

On the surface of planet earth each morning supernatural food is being harvested and placed in people’s mouths for the salvation of their souls. Who can rightly calculate the value of one single Mass on planet earth?

Father Garrigou-Lagrange states:

“…the Mass ought each morning to be the eminent source from which spring the graces we need in the course of the day, the source of light and of warmth, similar, in the spiritual order, to the sunrise in the order of nature. After the night and sleep, which are an image of death, the sun reappearing each morning restores, so to speak, life to all that awakens on the surface of the earth. If we had a profound understanding of the value of daily Mass, we would see that it is like a spiritual sunrise that renews, preserves, and increases in our souls the life of grace, which is eternal life begun. Too often, however, the habit of assisting at Mass degenerates into routine for want of a spirit of faith, and then we no longer receive from the Holy Sacrifice all the fruits that we should. Yet the Mass ought to be the greatest act of each of our days, and in the life of a Christian, more notably of a religious, all other daily acts, especially all the other prayers and little sacrifices that we ought to offer to God in the course of the day, should be only the accompaniment of that act” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life).

Consider, then, if only for a moment, the value of one Holy Communion. Father Faber states:

No one can tell how much grace lies in a single Sacrament. In a single communion lies all grace; for in it is the Author and Fountain of all grace; and, if the theological opinion be true, that there is no grace in any of his members which has not actually been first in our Lord himself, then all the grace of all the world lies in one Communion, to be unsealed and enjoyed by the degree of fervor by which we bring. The saints have said that a single Communion was enough to make a saint” (The Precious Blood).

Father Lovasik, quoting from a commentary on The Imitation of Christ, adds:

“Who can conceive or explain the excellence of the all-Divine gift which Jesus Christ bestows upon us in giving us His blessed body and blood in the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive God with all his perfections, the plentitude of His Divinity, all the virtues and graces of his humanity, and all the merits of the man-God” (A Novena of Holy Communions, TAN).

Finally, Father Garrigou-Lagrange speaks to our desire for Eucharistic nourishment:

“All food is good when we are hungry. A rich man, accidentally deprived of food and famished, is happy to find black bread; he thinks it is the best meal of his life and he feels refreshed. If we hungered for the Eucharist, our Communion would be most fruitful. We should recall what this hunger was in St. Catherine of Siena; so great was it that one day when she had been harshly refused Communion, a particle of the large host became detached at the moment when the priest broke it in two, and was miraculously brought to the saint in response to the ardor of her desire. How can we have this hunger for the Eucharist? The answer lies in our being firmly convinced that the Eucharist is the indispensable food of our soul and in generously making some sacrifices every day” (Three Ages of the Interior Life).

Comment: (Relying on Father Faber). Pause for a moment to consider how very, very fortunate we are to have this amazing sacrament. And then consider the power each holy communion has to transform our lives and to make us more and more like the one whom we receive. What mind, save the mind of God, could have conceived of such an amazing means of grace! And then think about how available this magnificent sacrament is to us: throughout the very area where we live many masses are being said every day in order that this tremendous grace may be made available to us, not just once a year, or once a month, but every day! Would it not be incredibly prudent to try and receive the Lord as much as possible? What holds us back?

Father Faber, from whom these thoughts proceed, states:

“I hardly know anything upon which I should lay greater stress in these days than a fervent devotion to the Sacraments.”

Pray to Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, for a great desire for Holy Communion, the bread of Eternal Life.

Tom Mulcahy

Reference: Primarily The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-LaGrange. See the chapters on the Mass and Holy Communion.

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THE EVIDENCE CLEARLY ESTABLISHES THAT JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM

(Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

The claim is made by some scholars that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. These scholars put forth the argument that Jesus was actually born in his hometown of Nazareth, and that the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is more or less a Jewish midrash or theological reflection not strictly rooted in historical facts but in theological story-telling and interpretation. Against this argument I would like to make the following points:

1. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:1; Luke 2: 1-7).

2. None of the remaining 25 books of the New Testament contradict the claim in Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

3. There is no historical evidence that places Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. Historian Dr. Paul L. Maier states:

“No source has been discovered to date that disproves Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” (In the Fullness of Time, p. 32).

4. Dr. Scott Hahn establishes that Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is not midrash. Hahn states:

“Unlike midrash, the evangelist’s story of Jesus is not founded on an Old Testament text. Whereas midrash seeks to mine deeper meanings of the Old Testament, Matthew does not seek to interpret the Old Testament for its own sake. More to the point, Matthew is not retelling Old Testament episodes but is telling an entirely new story! It is a story with new characters and events; it is a story that could stand on its own apart from his Old Testament citations. Matthew employs the Old Testament to illuminate the significance of Jesus’ birth, not to determine in advance its plot and outcome” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p.10).

5. Pope Benedict XVI adds:

“The infancy narratives [of Matthew and Luke] are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted, and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply. What Matthew and Luke set out to do, each in his own way, was not to tell ‘stories’ but to write history, real history that actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God” (from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 119, 17 as quoted in Joy To The World).

6.  Moreover, Luke the historian assures us in his Gospel that he is delivering to his readers “a narrative of things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and that Luke has “followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…that you may know the truth concerning” the life of Jesus (Luke 1: 1-4). Luke assures his readers, therefore, that he has made considerable efforts to present a true and accurate history of the life of Jesus.

7. The post New Testament historical evidence clearly establishes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Historian, Professor Paul L. Maier explains:

“Nothing is more important in establishing the authenticity of an ancient site than antiquity: the place must have been regarded as such from the earliest times. If the Church of the Nativity [in Bethlehem] had been built here in 600 A.D., for example, its claim to mark the authentic site of the birth of Jesus would be almost worthless. But Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, erected the original Church of the Nativity at this place in 326 A.D., over the very grotto that had been identified as the true site by the early church father Origen and, before him, Justin Martyr. Writing in 150 A.D. Justin stated that Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable – not the typical stone or wooden stable so familiar in Christian art. Earlier still, in the 130s, the Pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian tried to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine, but ironically, thereby preserved their identity” (In the Fullness of Time, 38-39)!

8. Dr. Scott Hahn elaborates:

“Justin Martyr…was born around AD 100…some forty miles north of Bethlehem. He knew the people and the area quite well, and he knew the site of a ‘certain cave’ that the locals venerated as the place of Jesus’ birth – even at that early date. He simply mentions that local Christians took care to preserve the historical memory of the nativity. In the century after Justin’s account…Origen made his own pilgrimage to Bethlehem and wrote: ‘At Bethlehem the cave is shown where he [Jesus] was born…and this sight is greatly talked about in surrounding places, even among the enemies of the faith. They say that in this cave Jesus was born….” (Joy to the World, p. 17).

9. The great Biblical archaeologist, Father Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, thus concludes that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is indisputable.

“If the early Church thought of Jesus in terms of Davidic messianism – and it certainly did – it was not because of anything Jesus said or did but because of who he was and where he came from. And he came from Bethlehem” (“Where Was Jesus Born?”, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 54 as cited in Joy To The World, p. 106).

10. Based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and confirmed by the post New Testament historical evidence regarding the location of Jesus’ birth, the overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the sound conclusion that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image Attribution: This picture of the Church of the Nativity on Wikipedia is by Ian and Wendy Sewell, July 2007, and is used pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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THE SOUL-CLEANSING POWER OF PURITY OF HEART

                

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The Catholic spiritual practice of Purity of Heart is one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can and should make use of. The Catholic cognitive discipline of purity of heart monitors and detects disordered and evil thoughts, capturing them and deleting them as hostile to growth in holiness.

By the practice of purity of heart we keep a very careful watch over all the thoughts being presented to our mind and over all the affections and passions being presented to our heart. By this careful watch, we almost immediately intercept and delete the thoughts and affections which violate purity of heart. Thus, as a very simple example, should I suddenly feel the desire to gossip about someone, I check out this movement of my heart, examine it, and ultimately suppress or delete it since it violates purity of heart. Or, as another example, should I suddenly feel swelling up in my heart ill-will towards a certain person, the practice of purity of heart obligates me to take a close look at this movement of my heart, and to mortify it, and to replace it with Christian charity and forgiveness. Gradually, by steadfastly and diligently practicing purity of heart, our heart becomes cleaner and cleaner. What do we want more in our lives than purity of heart? 

Purity of heart is a mechanism of introspection whereby we carefully look at our thoughts and affections, even moment by moment, to place them under Christ’s law of charity. As soon as we observe that our mind or affections are tending in a sinful direction, we immediately mortify such thoughts or affections, giving them no chance of growth within our souls.   Its sort of like we’ve installed security software in our brain that immediately detects and deletes bad stuff (God’s given us the software and all we have to do is learn how to use it!!). 

Father Jacques Philippe, the well known spiritual writer, recommends the practice of purity of heart in his very worthwhile book, In the School of the Holy Spirit (see Appendix II beginning on page 70, and pages 40-42 ). But the two giants of our Catholic spiritual heritage who speak so highly of practicing purity of heart are Father Lallemant (in his classic The SpirituaDoctrine), and Father Grou (in Manual for Interior Souls). Both Fathers Lallemant and Grou were French and Jesuit.

Father Lallemant recommends the practice of purity of heart in conjunction with regular, sacramental confession. He states:

“For the oftener we confess, the more we purify ourselves, the grace proper to this sacrament being purity of conscience. Thus, every confession, besides the increase of habitual grace and of the gifts, imparts also a fresh sacramental grace, that is to say, a new title to receive from God  both actual  graces and the aids necessary for emancipating ourselves more and more from sin.” (Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine, II,  Chapter 6, as cited in The Mystical Evolution, pages 99-100).

What an amazing purifying tool at your immediate disposal for growth in holiness: the practice of purity of heart! Its like an ongoing, perpetual examination of conscience that keeps all the junk out of our hearts and mind. And when the junk is gone, we become, as Father Lallemant insists, more docile to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, which we previously could not hear. This is why Father Lallemant says that “purity of heart accomplishes so much” in the spiritual life.

Dear friend, take captive every thought in obedience to the Gospel (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine...purity of heart is one of his main doctrines for growth in holiness, and he formed saints!!! Saints Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf were his students. And also Father Grou as mentioned above. Matt Maher sings, “Hold my heart up to the light” in one of his songs. That is what the practice of purity of heart is: holding our heart up to the light!

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WHAT MARTHA AND MARY TEACH US ABOUT THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

“But there’s only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

THE FINAL HERESY IS ATHEISM

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

In the last chapter of his book, The Great Heresies, the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, who died in 1953, discusses the nature of the final heresy to attack the Church which he calls “a wholesale assault on the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith.” The final heresy is therefore aimed at the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. And what is this final heresy, what is this manifestation of the Anti-Christ?, it is atheism. Belloc comments: “of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.”

Belloc refers to atheism as the “Modern Attack” against the Church. He says the “modern attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers only material causes.” It is superstitious, as well, says Belloc, because it nourishes itself on “the silly vagaries of spiritualism…and other fantasies.” He mentions atheistic communism as one example of the “Modern Attack,” although perhaps a “passing one.”

Belloc maintains that this all-out attack against the Church is “now at our gates,” and he wrote The Great Heresies around 1938. He states that the “fruit” of the modern attack is to “undermine every form of restraint imposed by human experience acting through tradition,” but he maintains that there are other “evil effects” which may prove more permanent than the breakdown of sexual morality. He does say, however, that the “Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits….”

The “quarrel” we are in right now, says Belloc, “is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and the anti-God – the Church of Christ and the Anti-Christ.” Atheism thus represents the forces of the anti-God, and according to Belloc “the modern attack is far more advanced than is generally appreciated.” Even at the time he lived Belloc could say that “the mood of the faith has been largely ruined,” and that “we have already arrived at a strange pass” where the opponents of the Catholic Faith simply do not understand the Catholic Church. From this predicament, Belloc predicts that a new “paganism” will emerge that tends more towards cruelty than enlightenment.

Belloc predicts that “either we of the Faith shall become a small, persecuted, neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle cry, “Christus Imperat.”

Pray for the Church. Pray for the grace of perseverance.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quote from Pope John Paul II was made when he was a Cardinal during a visit to the United States in 1976. Pope John Paul II spoke of “the confrontation between the culture of death and the culture of life” in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life. 

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