Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Life Canvass in Ireland: Helping to "Save the 8th"

A photo of canvassers in Ireland helping to save the unborn and ensure a "No" vote on May 25.
Canvassers of Life Canvass helping save the unborn and ensure a "No" note on May 25. Photo: Twitter/Savethe8th

In only a few days' time, on May 25, Ireland will vote on a referendum on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment of its constitution: the pro-life provision that prevents the killing of a developing human being in the womb. Among many of the faithful Catholics who are fighting the good fight to ensure that the referendum results in a "No" vote are the folks of Life Canvass: a nationwide awareness effort of volunteers who travel from door-to-door having conversations, discussing the issues, answering questions, and disseminating information.

Life Canvass, now three years in the running, has yielded some impressive results. As noted on the Save Lives Save the 8th website, Life Canvass is the biggest grass roots movement in living memory with almost 3,000 canvassers grouped into 146 teams spread out in counties across Ireland. To date, 95% of Limerick has been canvassed and teams in Mullingar and Mayo are busy at it as well, canvassing seven days a week! And if that isn't impressive enough, the website went on to further report that, "The target of reaching 700,000 homes will be exceeded and every one of those powerful personal conversations is shifting more and more people to a No vote."

The daily effort of this extraordinary group of people has revealed just how essential their work has been and continues to be in the remaining days leading up to the referendum: many of those canvassed were undecided due to a lack of information. To remedy that canvassers have been properly informing citizens with the truth about the referendum: the facts about what happens to a baby when an abortion occurs; that the referendum is a "stepping stone" to abortion available on demand, that if passed would include the killing of babies identified with any "defects"; that everyone has the right to life; the killing of a human being in the womb can never be considered acceptable under any circumstances; the negative ramifications of abortion upon women and society; and how abortion could negatively impact Ireland for generations to come.

Part of the effort to disseminate information also includes the Protect The 8th's green booklet, Your Guide to the Referendum: Information on the Government’s Proposals: an essential reading for anyone that seeks to fully understand what a "Yes" or "No" vote would mean for women and their unborn children.

A captured video frame of canvassers out in Roscommon and Mayo
Canvassers out in Roscommon and Mayo. Photo: thejournal.ie/8 out of 10 voters in this area backed the Eighth Amendment in '83. We went to talk to locals this week

Admittedly, I am very impressed with Life Canvass! I have been following this campaign for several months on Twitter and I cannot help but think of Saint John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, on the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the World, in which he wrote, "A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle." (3)

Released in 1988, on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Christifideles Laici, is more relevant today given Ireland's tragic abandonment of Catholic teaching that has resulted in a moral disorder: contraceptive devices and birth control pills have been available for decades; a 1992 referendum resulted in the option for women to travel to another country (England) in order to have an abortion, as well as the availability of information regarding abortion "services" in other countries; in 1995, Ireland's ban on divorce was removed through another referendum; and the referendum of 2015, ushered in "same-sex marriage."

On May 25, the government, supported by mainstream media and with the backing of wealthy foreign donors and organizations like Amnesty International, seeks to usher in a Culture of Death with the repeal referendum, which if passed would essentially amount to abortion available on demand.

A video frame capturing canvassers out in the coastal suburb of Dún Laoghaire
Canvassers out in the coastal suburb of Dún Laoghaire. Photo: thejournal.ie/Anti-amendment Dún Laoghaire bucked the national trend in '83. We went to talk to locals this week

There are many faithful in Ireland who have not remained idle! With the understanding of the gravity of what a "Yes" vote would mean for the unborn and the future of Ireland, thousands of faithful Catholics have been putting faith into action, doing their part to "Save the 8th" on a national level: the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith on November 26, 2017; the Rally For Life event just a couple of months ago on March 10 in Dublin; the Rosary at the Mass Rock For Life and Faith that followed on March 18; 40 Days/Nights Eucharist Reparation; 54 Day Rosary for Life; Eucharistic Adoration and Mass; public, private and parish vigils; fasts on bread and water (Wednesday and Friday); and novenas.

Life Canvass spotlights in a unique way just how committed the faithful in Ireland are to protecting and defending the unborn: individuals who brave all types of weather conditions, fight off fatigue, discouragement and other temptations, and do so on a daily basis (some for more than two years) canvassing counties across the nation, including at times hostile territory. With Life Canvass, the division within Ireland over abortion and the anger among some of the citizenry is directly felt by canvassers. And some take the "heat" with great patience and perseverance, knowing full well, that it is part of the battle. It is no small matter to publicly engage people in an awareness campaign: it can drain one both physically and emotionally, especially when confronted with verbal abuse and aggression.

A small group of canvassers in County Wexford.
Life Canvass in County Wexford. Photo: Twitter/Savethe8th

Canvassers are fighting the good fight for the unborn and are doing so enthusiastically and undeterred with the hope that their actions, united to prayer, will draw God's Divine Intervention and Mercy upon the nation to uproot and remove the moral disorder among the landscape and restore Ireland to a Culture of Life.

Life Canvass demonstrates openly and publicly what faith put into action looks like, highlighting in the process the scriptural passage from James: What good is faith that does nothing in practice, it is thoroughly lifeless. (James 2:17)

In addition to being informed on the issues of abortion, canvassing also requires being knowledgeable of what the Catholic Church teaches about the killing of an innocent developing human being in the womb, and drawing from that teaching during each conversation. By doing so, the faithful Catholics of Life Canvass are demonstrating by their witness the importance of what we as Catholics are called to do: evangelize. Evangelization as Blessed Pope Paul VI put it in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, "...[I]s in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity." (14)

A photo of canvassers knocking on doors in the town of Sligo
Canvassers knocking on doors in the town of Sligo. Photo: Twitter/Savethe8th

Blessed Pope Paul VI's successor, St. John Paul II, responded to that vocation with a distinctive and efficacious missionary zeal. Not only did St. John Paul II publicly expose the evil of abortion on numerous occasions, but he dedicated an entire encyclical on the value and inviolability of human life and the many threats to it entitled, Evangelium vitae (Gospel of life). Particularly noteworthy is section fifty-eight which helps to explain why many Catholics are no longer aware and do not understand the truth about abortion, and why the government has even bothered to hold a referendum:
Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime". [Gaudium et Spes, 51]

But today, in many people's consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as "interruption of pregnancy", which tends to hide abortion's true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth. (58)
The truth about abortion is understood by many who are canvassed by Life Canvass. In an article from the Irish News web site Independent.ie, Knocking on doors in hostile territories: What its like to canvass for the referendum when local voting trends are against you, one such individual, an elderly lady stated to canvassers, "Abortion is murder...It's as simple as that."

That simple point was further spotlighted by Saint John Paul II in the same aforementioned encyclical on the Gospel of Life, when he wrote, "...[I] declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. (62) 

A photo of young volunteers canvassing in Galway and Roscommon
Young volunteers canvassing, standing strong for life in Galway and Roscommon. Photo: Twitter/Savethe8th

If we seek to further understand why the killing of a developing human being in the womb is immoral, we can find it in God's Holy Law, The Fifth Commandment, "You Shall Not Kill."

Moreover, human life is sacred! The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why this is so, "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (2258)

A photo of new canvassers, including Cllr. Declan Harvey of Fianna Fáil in Tullamore, County Offaly.
Some of the newest canvassers, including Cllr. Declan Harvey of
Fianna Fáil (the Republican Party) handing out Protect The 8th's
green referendum booklet, in Tullamore, County Offaly.
Photo: Twitter/Savethe8th
Sadly, there are many Catholics in Ireland that simply do not know, understand or accept God's Holy Law and the sacredness of human life. This reality has been exploited by the Together for Yes, the anti-life campaign of the referendum, who have assigned their own canvassers with deceptive facts and leading questions, attempting in the process to justify and rationalize abortion: that abortion should be allowed in the case of rape, incest or if someone was handicapped; emphasizing that Irish women are already having abortions by taking unregulated abortion pills or by traveling to England, that it would be safer for them to kill their unborn children in Ireland; that this referendum is the last chance to legalize abortion in Ireland; that abortion is a "compassionate approach" for anyone who needs it; that a "No" vote result would continue to "endanger" the health and lives of women; and a host of other rationalizations and justifications that attempt to make abortion acceptable in the hearts and minds of the citizenry.

The Together For Yes anti-life campaign has even tried to exploit the negligence of the medical staff at University Hospital Galway, who were responsible for the controversial death of Savita Halappanavar and her baby in 2012, claiming that the Eight Amendment was a contributing factor to her death, "Even though she was miscarrying and sick, she was refused a termination [abortion] because there was a foetal heartbeat. As a result, she contracted sepsis and died. If doctors had intervened earlier, the issue of sepsis would not have arisen and she would not have died." The true story about Savita and her baby was captured in a well-made documentary film: A Silent Killer: Savita's Story.

None of what the anti-life campaign promotes and disseminates negates the truth about abortion: that it is the killing of a developing human being in the womb and that each human being has a right to life. 

And that truth was embodied in the life of Saint Gianna Beretta Mollaa devout Catholic doctor from Lombardy, Italy, who put God first in everything and allowed her Christian faith to permeate every aspect of life—whose unwavering adherence to God's Holy Law and belief in the sacredness of human life was exemplified by the willing sacrifice of her own life for the life of her unborn child in 1962. 

Ireland responded very positively to the "Eighth Amendment Referendum" in 1983; a referendum that was held to vote on the inclusion of a pro-life provision in its constitution—approved by 67% of the population—which states, “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” In a few days time, Ireland will have another opportunity to choose life by keeping the Eighth Amendment, responding once again to St. John Paul II's homily of October 1, 1979, in Limerick:
And so I say to all, have an absolute and holy respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of its conception. Abortion, as the Vatican Council stated, is one of the "abominable crimes" (Gaudium et Spes, 51). To attack unborn life at any moment from its conception is to undermine the whole moral order which is the true guardian of the well-being of man. The defence of the absolute inviolability of unborn life is part of the defence of human rights and human dignity. May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death. (6)
In that homily St. John Paul II—as part of his Apostolic Journey to Ireland in 1979, which lasted from September 29 to October 1—demonstrated how seriously he understood the Church's vocation to evangelize. It was a timely "visit" that positively impacted the 1983 referendum. Here is more from that homily:
Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history. The Irish people have to choose today their way forward. Will it be the transformation of all strata of humanity into a new creation, or the way that many nations have gone, giving excessive importance to economic growth and material possessions while neglecting the things of the spirit? The way of substituting a new ethic of temporal enjoyment for the law of God? The way of false freedom which is only slavery to decadence? Will it be the way of subjugating the dignity of the human person to the totalitarian domination of the State? The way of violent struggle between classes? The way of extolling revolution over God? 
Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus to preserve Ireland's soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the Pope when he repeats the words of Christ: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16 :26). What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul? (3)
Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the "kingdoms of the world and their splendour" to the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 4 :8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision. (4)
Keep Life Canvass and Ireland in your Mass, Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and fasting intentions. Pray for the intercession of St. John Paul II that God's Divine Mercy and Intervention be drawn upon Ireland. 

Thank God for all the faithful Catholics in Ireland.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Australia's Coast to Coast Rosary: For Protection, the Future and its Youth

A photo of the Observatory Point and Lookout in Esperance, Western Australia
Observatory Point and Lookout in Esperance, Western Australia. Photo: Australia's Guide/Observatory Point and Lookout

With May being the "Month of Mary," it seemed only fitting to publish today's post on another national Rosary prayer event: the Coast to Coast Rosary for Australia's Protection, Future and the Youth, given the official title, Oz Rosary #53.

In only a few days time on Sunday, May 13, faithful Catholics throughout Australia will be gathering at the coasts for group recitation of the Rosary, surrounding Australia in prayer to draw upon God's Divine Intervention and Mercy through the intercession of Mary. Those that cannot make it to the coasts will be praying the Rosary within churches, at parks, lookouts and farms. There is even one group from Canberra praying at Black Mountain National Park in Queensland.

This national prayer event is drawing participation from many clergy, religious and laity including: the Legion of Mary in Perth; the Sisters of Mount Schoenstadt in Mulgoa; the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Fortitude Valley; the Sisters of Mercy in Alma and Camperdown; St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta; Cardinal Gilroy Retirement Village Merrylands; schools and pilgrimage centers; and a long list of parishes that continues to grow each day as Sunday draws near.

One cannot help but sense that we are witnessing the beginnings of a global Rosary movement. What started out in Poland as a national Rosary prayer event in the Fall 2017, was followed by similar national events in Italy, Ireland, and the British Isles. Soon it will be Australia's turn and there is also an American national Rosary event set for October 7, 2018.

Jane Chifley, who heads the Australian effort, has acknowledged the special significance of the origins of this "global movement": Poland, the homeland of St. John Paul II, whose love for Mary permeated his entire life and pontificate and who admitted, scarcely two weeks after his election to the See of Peter, that "The Rosary is my favourite prayer."

As for the selected date of May 13, Mother's Day in Australia—also the first day of the Marian apparitions to the children of Fatima in 1917—Chifley explained that it seemed appropriate since Mary is our Mother. With this national prayer event falling on a Sunday, it fits well into the schedules of many parishes who have planned group recitation of the Rosary and a Consecration Prayer to Mary either before or after Mass.

Part of this national initiative's online effort began a few months ago on November 3, 2017, with the initial Facebook post, which reads, "On Sunday May 13th, 2018 (Fatima Feast Day) let's pray the rosary across Australia for our nation, in 53 locations across the nation for the protection and consecration of our nation to Mary." 

The number "fifty-three" represents the Hail Marys of the Rosary and as of the publishing of this post, there are 211 confirmed locations participating in this national event. Although the vast majority of participants will be praying at the east and west coasts there are many other locations that deserve to be mentioned: Gantheaume Point in the north-west of Western Australia; Lee Point Beach, the northernmost group of participants in the Northern Territory; Sacred Heart Church on Thursday Island, the northernmost point in Queensland; Good Shepherd Parish in Mount Isa, Queensland; and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

An aerial photo of Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, Queensland.
Aerial photo of Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, Queensland. Photo: Island Girl Discovery/More About Me

Also worthy of mention are nine locations in Tasmania: Lulworth Boat Ramp and Weymouth on the northern coast; St. Anne's Catholic Church in Lilydale; Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and Lagoon Beach in George Town; St. Brigid's Catholic Church in Wynyard; St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Riverside; St. Therese of Lisieux in Moonah; and St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Hobart.

The fact that Chifley has chosen to follow in the footsteps of other national Rosary prayer events speaks volumes about her faith in God and trust in Our Lady's intercession, as well as to her understanding that the battle for Australia's protection, future and the youth is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. And the most effective way to fight the good fight is by group recitation of the Rosary.

Saint Louis De Montfort in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, at the Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation, wrote that not only is the group recitation of the Rosary the method of prayer that the Evil One fears the most, but "...[I]t is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him." (98)

Utilizing the Rosary as a spiritual weapon in times of great need has been a long-held tradition in the Church since its origin when Saint Dominic (Founder of the Order of Preachers) received the Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1214, as an efficacious method and powerful means to convert the Albigensians and other sinners.

That long-held tradition was given much attention by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio—the first of many documents issued on the importance of the Rosary—on devotion to the Rosary as an efficacious remedy for the many evils afflicting society. In that encyclical's first page Pope Leo XIII wrote, "It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God." (2) Written in 1883, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical not only encouraged devotion to the Rosary, but spotlighted how important it has been in the history of the Catholic Church when faced with several threats; namely, the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

An aerial photo of Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, Western Australia.
Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, Western Australia. Photo: Trip Advisor Australia/Gantheaume Point Lighthouse

Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, also noted the particular efficacy of the Rosary in most difficult times when Christianity itself was threatened:
The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. (39)
The Rosary is much more than a protective prayer; as a compendium of the Gospel it is a genuine path of contemplation on the life of Jesus and Mary, and the Gospel lessons contained within each mystery. As St. John Paul II put it in the aforementioned apostolic letter the Rosary is, "...[A] prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness." (1) A little further on he wrote, "With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer." (1)

The Rosary is important for our salvation: the primary goal in life! The Rosary is an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus and Mary; an invitation from Our Mother who loves Her children and wants them to be sanctified and saved. Saint Louis De Montfort in the same aforementioned book lists, in chapter Twenty Seventh Rose: Benefits, how this can be accomplished by those who pray the Rosary: it gradually brings us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ; it purifies our souls from sin; it gives us victory over all our enemies; it makes the practice of virtue easy; it sets us on fire with the love of our Lord; it enriches us with graces and merits; it supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellowmen; and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces from God. (65)

A photo of St. Mary's Cathedral, Hobart, Tasmania
St. Mary's Cathedral, Hobart, Tasmania. Photo: Martin Pot (Martybugs at en.wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

As part of the spiritual preparation and protection for this coming Sunday's national prayer event, organizers have encouraged participants to daily recite the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer.

Organizers are also hoping that participants will recite the dedicated Act of Consecration, at the end of their Rosary recitations on Sunday, in an effort to consecrate Australia to Mary! Here is that very prayer to the Patroness of Australia, Our Lady of Help of Christians:
O Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, Mother of Mercy, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to your Immaculate Heart.

To you we consecrate our country, our families, our hearts, and souls and all that we have.

And in order that this consecration may be truly effective and lasting, we renew today the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation; and we undertake to live as good Christians - faithful to God, the Church and the Holy Father. We desire to pray the Rosary, partake in the Holy Eucharist, attach special importance to the first Saturday of the month and to work for the conversion of sinners.

Furthermore we promise, O most holy Virgin, that we will zealously spread devotion to you, so that through our consecration to your Immaculate Heart and through your own intercession the coming of the Kingdom of Christ in the world may be hastened.

Participants have also been encouraged to pray to the three patrons of "Oz Rosary #53": St. John Paul II; St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), who recited several Rosaries each day; and to St. Mary MacKillop, the Australian nun who co-founded Australia's first religious order in 1866, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. 

Chifley has informed me that participants are also praying to Eileen O'Connor, co-founder of Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor; a saint in waiting whose incorrupt body is in chapel near Coogee Beach, New South Wales, where Chifley will be reciting her Rosary on Sunday.

No spiritual preparation would be complete without fasting; the other "spiritual weapon" that perfectly combines with prayer in the fight against the Evil One and his demons, which Our Lady Queen of Peace in Medjugorje has been encouraging since the early 80's; just one of Her "little stones."

An image of Oz Rosary #53 Facebook post encouraging participants of this national prayer event to fast.
Facebook post encouraging participants to fast in preparation for this national event. Image: Facebook/OZ Rosary #53

Organizers are keenly aware of the importance of fasting and have expressed their hope that participants will fast to fight the good fight. When we fast, we pray better and our fight becomes more efficacious as some demons only respond to fasting! (Mark 9:29)

The organizing effort and spiritual preparations put forth for this national prayer event are certainly in keeping with Australia's Catholic heritage: a nation that was discovered in 1606, by a devout Catholic and Portuguese navigator, Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who declared Australia as "the Southern Land of the Holy Spirit." In fact, Australia is Latin meaning "the nation in the south" or "the southern land." 

In one of the manuscript records Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' proclamation reads, "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Catholic Church, the Order of St Francis and the Order of Blessed John of God and of the Holy Spirit and of His Majesty ... I take possession of these lands and all the parts thereof, in the name of John of God and all the professed brothers of his Order." Another manuscript record further reveals Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' faith and devotion:
Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in these hitherto unknown parts, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father and of the Virgin Mary, God and true man, hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race, being present as witnesses all the land and sea-going officers; on this Day of Pentecost, 14th May 1606.
Oz Rosary #53 has the support of many clergy, including the Bishop Emeritus David Cremin, the Irish-born retired bishop of Sydney, who has officially endorsed this national prayer event.

As Sunday, May 13, is rapidly approaching, may Catholics around the world show their support by uniting their Rosary prayers to those faithful Catholics in Australia.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Our Lady of Montserrat

A mountain view of the Benedictine Monastery and basilica at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. Photo: Miriadna/Monastery at Montserrat

With today being the Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, I thought it fitting to publish today's post in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I first discovered Our Lady of Montserrat many years ago from Michael H. Brown's devotional book, Seven Days With Mary, which some of you may recall from my previous posts on Our Lady of Prompt Succor and Our Lady of Good Counsel. In total, there are seven Marian devotions with the remaining four being: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and Our Lady of Saragossa; all of which have been officially recognized and sanctioned by the Church.

Montserrat is an impressive, towering mountain in Catalonia, Spain whose majestic height peaks at 4,055 ft, and at approximately two-thirds of the way up (2,846 ft) is the sanctuary: the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat and the basilica where the slender statue (Black Madonna) of Mary is located. Brown describes Montserrat as, "...[O]ne of the world's most holiest and august sanctuaries." (16)

Of the ten pages about Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown dedicated the first five pages—the remaining pages consisted of meditations and prayers—to the sharing of his pilgrimage experience at Montserrat, which also included: a brief historical note on the origin of this devotion; the significance of Mary's apparitions and intercession over the centuries; and the importance of miraculous images and statues in the history of the Church.

Citing the example of the Apostle Luke's painting or carving of Our Lady, Brown went on to note that such images are important ways for Heaven to communicate with humans. Accompanying these images have been special graces, heavenly blessings, and Mary's intercession; the statue at the sanctuary in Montserrat is another example of Heaven's communication with us.

A photo of the basilica and monastery at Montserrat.
The basilica and monastery at Montserrat. Photo: Torero from nl [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The statue in the basilica at Montserrat is known as "Little Dark Lady of Montserrat" or "La Jerosolimitana" (Native of Jerusalem). It is located in an alcove high above the altar where pilgrims are granted access to it by a narrow stairway, allowing each individual to get close to the statue.

At this majestic setting, Brown shared that the time he spent within the "incredible gold-gilded basilica" was one in which he received tangible graces from a statue that is only three feet tall. Describing the statue as Romanesque in style, with a dark Byzantine look of Mary's face, Brown wrote that being in its presence leaves pilgrims in "reverential awe."

The exact origin of the statue is not known, but what is known is that as far back as 718, the statue was hidden in a cave from Arab invaders, where it remained undiscovered for two centuries. In 890, local boys spotted a strange light coming from the eastern part of the mountain, where upon their investigation they heard the sound of music and canticles. The boys informed a local priest in the village of Monistrol, who did not believe them at first, but upon visiting the location, he too experienced the same light and inexplicable music. The priest informed the local bishop in Manresa who headed for the site together with a procession of villagers.

The statue of the Black Madonna in Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Black Madonna in Montserrat. Photo:
Feel the Planet/Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
Upon arrival at the entrance of the cave, and after having experienced the canticles, lights, and fragrant aroma, the bishop ordered the entry into the cave where the image was discovered. That discovery prompted the bishop to have it placed in the cathedral in Manresa, but when those carrying the statue could no longer move where the basilica and monastery currently exist, it was understood to be a sign for the sanctuary to be built on that very spot.

Among some of the pilgrims who have gone to Montserrat have been: Jaime 1 (El Conquistador), St. Vincent Ferrer, King Louis IV, and St. Ignatius Loyola, who after his time at the sanctuary divested his cloths, gave them to a poor man, and proceeded to spend time alone in a cave near Manresa where he wrote his well known spiritual exercises.

Accompanying Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World was one of Montserrat's hermits, and after having reached his destination, Columbus dedicated one of the first churches to the Virgin of Montserrat, where today in the Carribean there is an island that bears the same name.

One of the Benedictine abbots from Montserrat, Giuliano ella Rovere, eventually became pope; "the" pope who hired Michaelangelo. 

Brown quoted the Emperor Carlos V who stated, "A certain divinity which I cannot explain flows from the sanctuary of Montserrat all over the mountain." (18) From his own personal experience Brown wrote, "I cannot more highly recommend a sanctuary than Montserrat. I was truly surprised by the strength of its effect. I was impressed by the atmosphere of holiness way up that unique mountain and what it taught me about praying in solitude." (19)

Meditating and praying with Seven Days With Mary, is essentially a time of Divine Intimacy: a personal retreat where one enjoys a constant feeling of peace and receives an abundance of graces. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Mary, to open ourselves and allow Our Lady, in an ever increasing way, to be our light to Christ and show us the path to Jesus.

This is precisely what Mary's role has been and continues to be: to spiritually prepare Her children for Heaven. To do so, Mary wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us, so as to lead us to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. As Brown points out, Mary has something to give each one of us personally, and he expressed his hope that through Seven Days With Mary, each one of us will receive it. To that end Brown suggests, "Meditate on each major appearance that is reviewed in this book and apply the lessons to your own lives. There are hidden meanings. There are hidden lessons...This is a book of how to apply all that we have learned about Mary to our own personal lives." (vii)

A mountain view of Santa Cova, where the Black Madonna statue was found in Monserrat
Santa Cova in the mountains at Montserrat
where the Black Madonna was found. Photo:
Hello Jetlag/Montserrat Monastery and Mountains:

An Easy Day Trip From Barcelona
Brown recommends meditating and praying for seven consecutive days to receive the maximum benefit. As to which particular devotion to begin and end with, it doesn't matter so long as each day is dedicated to only one devotion.

To aid each individual's effort to meditate upon Mary's role, and walk with Her to find our way through the current darkness, Brown arranged it so that each day includes: meditations, litanies, and other prayers related to the individual devotions; an additional brief meditation, contemplation, and ejaculation; and the suggestion to pray the Rosary, especially the Scriptural Rosary. In the chapter dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown also included two consecration prayers. Here is a contemplation that Brown provided from that chapter, which spotlights the richness of this devotional book, "However much the world tempts us, we know that it is a passing place and that if we do good, if we help others—most of all, if we are reverential, if love and serve Christ, and if we are humble, hidden as the Virgin's statue was hidden—we will resurface, as at Montserrat, in glory." (23)

The added benefit of this devotional book is the opportunity to seek the aid of Mary for our families, friends, and others that we care about, our respective countries, and the world as a whole.

We don't need to expend a great deal of energy to recognize how the world is in great need of God's Divine Intervention, for which the Church has historically appealed to Mary's intercession. Pope Leo III in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio wrote about that appeal to Mary, and how the Rosary is instrumental to remedy the many evils of society: the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

Immorality, materialism, and greed have always existed, but as Brown noted in the Preface, our time is an "unusual and special time," one in which "...[T]he level to which our very institutions have fallen gives great pause and recalls corrupt times like those back during the fall of Rome or during the Middle Ages." (vi)

Today's moral disorder has ushered in a Culture of Death: abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide; contraception; in vitro fertilization; and the desensitization of all threats (including the death penalty in some countries) to the value and inviolability of human life, creating in the process a deep crisis of conscience. We also see the effects of the global sexual revolution: pornography and pornovision; sexually explicit advertising; the LGBTQ agenda; gender mainstreaming; the indoctrination of children and our youth in the education system with sexual immorality, and the list goes on.

But no matter how long that list may be or become, we always have recourse to Mary. From the history of the Catholic Church, we know of Mary's purpose at Her many apparitions: to identify and expose the demonic influence upon people and regions in various parts of the world, to dispel them from both, and lead each individual back to Jesus. 

So numerous are Mary's apparitions—estimated to be in the thousands—in countries like Italy, France, and Spain that today there are literally hundreds of sanctuaries, shrines, monuments, and churches built at those sites in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In a world that seems increasingly evil and indifferent to it, we need to pray (especially the Rosary, the most powerful prayer) to Our Lady that through Her intercession God's Divine Intervention will uproot and remove the moral disorder in our respective countries and restore them to, as St. John Paul II put it, a "Culture of Life."

We should also seek the comfort of Mary's protective mantle, and implore Her to generously dispense an abundance of graces upon us.

Our Lady of Montserrat, pray for us.