This story was reported by the Sunday Times from the UK:
John Paul miracles hasten sainthood
THE VATICAN is close to making the late pope John Paul II a saint after investigating three "miracles" attributed to him.
John Paul had already been credited with curing a nun of Parkinson's disease and now it has emerged he has been credited with two other cures, proof of which will confer on him beatification and then canonisation.
This weekend the cardinal in charge of the process said he expected the checks performed by the local dioceses on all three miracles to be complete by April. A formal announcement is expected on April 2, the second anniversary of John Paul's death, and senior Vatican sources expect him to be declared a saint within 18 months.
Pope Benedict XVI has put his predecessor on a fast-track to canonisation, waiving a rule under which the Vatican normally waits five years after the candidate's death before launching the process. A similar waiver led to the rapid elevation of Mother Teresa in 2003.
However, Benedict made it clear in a document released last year that he will not emulate John Paul, who was said to run a "saint factory" after announcing 120 new names in one day. His foreign journeys were often marked by canonisations or beatifications of people from the countries he visited. Altogether, he created 482 saints, more than the total in the previous 500 years.
The French nun, who is not named, was suffering from the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease when members of her convent prayed to the spirit of John Paul to ask God for her recovery in May 2005. The late pope himself suffered from Parkinson's.
Several hours after the prayers began, the nun said that she could write without difficulty and within two weeks she rose from her bed, reporting "no more pain, no rigidity".
Candidates being considered for sainthood must not only have led a virtuous life but also to have been responsible for a medically inexplicable cure after their death by responding to prayers from the afterlife.
Cardinal JosŽ Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said in an interview to be broadcast tomorrow by Rome Reports, a television news agency, that the diocesan phase of assessing the cure was almost complete. "Cardinal Ruini, in charge of causes for the diocese of Rome, believes that this phase will be complete by April," said Martins.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who is leading the process for the beatification, told The Sunday Times last week that he was examining three miracles altogether. There is a second elsewhere in Europe and a third in South America. However, he said he could not be drawn on whether they had been authenticated.
John Paul is likely to be declared "venerable" in the coming months, and, pending a satisfactory outcome of the investigation, Benedict is likely to beatify John Paul in the autumn.
The summer of 2008 is believed to be the most likely time for Benedict to canonise John Paul in an open air mass in St Peter's Square. At his funeral in the square huge crowds roared: "Santo subito [sainthood now]!"
Monday, February 26, 2007
This story was reported by the Sunday Times from the UK:
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
For Christians, and specifically Catholics, today is Ash Wednesday and marks the first day of Lent, a time of repentence and fasting. Today is especially marked for fasting, as only one full meal and two smaller meals not equally the one meal in size are permitted to be eaten. Also, Catholics are obligied to abstain from meat.
At mass today, Catholics will receive a cross on their foreheads using ashes. This comes from the Biblical practice of people covering themselves in ashes as penitents. Also, a mark on the forehead represents ownership, so a cross represents that we are servants of Christ.
The following information is very valuable, and is from Jimmy Akin, from Catholic Answers Live:
On the first day of Lent, this signing is done with ashes because they are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one's head (cf. 1 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 1:20, 13:19, 15:32). Ashes also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. When the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes and says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," he is echoing God's address to Adam (Gen. 3:19; cf. Job 34:15; Ps. 90:3, 104:29; Eccles. 3:20). This phrase also echoes the words at a Catholic burial, "Ashes to ashes; dust to dust," which is based on God's words to Adam in Genesis 3 and Abraham's confession, "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27).
Catholics are not required to have their foreheads signed with ashes. It is, though, strongly advised as a visible spiritual reminder that encourages us to adopt an attitude of prayer, repentance, and humility.
Neither is Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation. Holy days are either commemorations of particular events (such as the birth of Christ), particular people (such as Jesus' earthly father, Joseph), or important theological concepts (such as the Kingship of Christ). Ash Wednesday does not commemorate any event and could be said only indirectly to commemorate a Person (Christ), since it is the beginning of preparation for the greater celebrations of Christ's saving work that follow. However, attending Mass is a fitting way to mark the beginning of penitential season of Lent. Also, it is a day of fast and abstinence.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I found the following article very interesting. It was taken from www.catholic.net.
The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition
by Ellen Rice
"The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition," a 1994 BBC/A&E production, will re-air on the History Channel this December 3 at 10 p.m. It is a definite must-see for anyone who wishes to know how historians now evaluate the Spanish Inquisition since the opening of an investigation into the Inquisition's archives. The special includes commentary from historians whose studies verify that the tale of the darkest hour of the Church was greatly fabricated.
In its brief sixty-minute presentation, "The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition" provides only an overview of the origins and debunking of the myths of torture and genocide. The documentary definitely succeeds in leaving the viewer hungry to know more. The long-held beliefs of the audience are sufficiently weakened by the testimony of experts and the expose of the making of the myth.
The Inquisition began in 1480. Spain was beginning a historic reunification of Aragon and Castile. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile created a unified Hispania not seen since Roman times. Afraid that laws commanding the exile or conversion of Jews were thwarted by conversos, i.e. synagogue-going "Catholics," Ferdinand and Isabella commissioned an investigation or Inquisition. They began the Inquisition hoping that religious unity would foster political unity, and other heads of state heralded Spain's labors for the advent of a unified Christendom. The documentary clearly and boldly narrates the historical context, which intimates that the Spanish were not acting odd by their contemporary standards.
The Inquisition Myth, which Spaniards call "The Black Legend," did not arise in 1480. It began almost 100 years later, and exactly one year after the Protestant defeat at the Battle of Mühlberg at the hands of Ferdinand's grandson, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In 1567 a fierce propaganda campaign began with the publication of a Protestant leaflet penned by a supposed Inquisition victim named Montanus. This character (Protestant of course) painted Spaniards as barbarians who ravished women and sodomized young boys. The propagandists soon created "hooded fiends" who tortured their victims in horrible devices like the knife-filled Iron Maiden (which never was used in Spain). The BBC/A&E special plainly states a reason for the war of words: the Protestants fought with words because they could not win on the battlefield.
The Inquisition had a secular character, although the crime was heresy. Inquisitors did not have to be clerics, but they did have to be lawyers. The investigation was rule-based and carefully kept in check. And most significantly, historians have declared fraudulent a supposed Inquisition document claiming the genocide of millions of heretics.
What is documented is that 3000 to 5000 people died during the Inquisition's 350 year history. Also documented are the "Acts of Faith," public sentencings of heretics in town squares. But the grand myth of thought control by sinister fiends has been debunked by the archival evidence. The inquisitors enjoyed a powerful position in the towns, but it was one constantly jostled by other power brokers. In the outlying areas, they were understaffed - in those days it was nearly impossible for 1 or 2 inquisitors to cover the thousand-mile territory allotted to each team. In the outlying areas no one cared and no one spoke to them. As the program documents, the 3,000 to 5,000 documented executions of the Inquisition pale in comparison to the 150,000 documented witch burnings elsewhere in Europe over the same centuries.
The approach is purely historical, and therefore does not delve into ecclesial issues surrounding religious freedom. But perhaps this is proper. Because the crime was heresy, the Church is implicated, but the facts show it was a secular event.
One facet of the Black Legend that evaporates under scrutiny in this film is the rumor that Philip II, son of Charles V, killed his son Don Carlos on the advisement of the aging blind Grand Inquisitor. But without a shred of evidence, the legend of Don Carlos has been enshrined in a glorious opera by Verdi.
The special may be disturbing to young children. There are scenes of poor souls burning at the stake, and close-ups of the alleged torture devices. Scenes depicting witches consorting with pot-bellied devils are especially grotesque. For kids, this is the stuff of nightmares.
Discrediting the Black Legend brings up the sticky subject of revisionism. Re-investigating history is only invalid if it puts an agenda ahead of reality. The experts - once true believers in the Inquisition myth - were not out to do a feminist canonization of Isabella or claim that Tomas de Torquemada was a Marxist. Henry Kamen of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona said on camera that researching the Inquisition's archives "demolished the previous image all of us (historians) had."
And the future of the Black Legend? For many it may continue to hold more weight than reality. There is the emotional appeal against the Church. The dissenters of today may easily imagine Torquemada's beady eyes as a metaphor of the Church's "dictatorial, controlling, damning" pronouncements. The myth is also the easiest endorsement of the secular state: "de-faith" the state and de-criminalize heresy. Who will be the revisionists in this case? Will the many follow Montanas' lead in rewriting history?
Our 20th century crisis of man playing God - usurping power over conception, life, and death - leaves us with no alternative but to qualify our demythologization of the Inquisition with a reminder: 3,000 to 5,000 victims are 3,000 to 5,000 too many.
Ellen Rice is assistant to the editor of Catholic Dossier.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Alexa ranks webpages on the Internet, and with your help as readers, this blog has surpassed 1,000,000 in its ranking and currently ranks at 887,363! I wish to thank everyone who reads this blog, and who makes this possible. If you want to help the rank go even higher, you can install the Alexa Toolbar, by clicking here.
This is a great milestone for this blog. Please continue to stop by, as I will continue to update this website regularly!
Friday, February 16, 2007
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before the papal conclave gathered to elect a new pope, made a speech about the Catholic Church and the world. He said we as citizens must seek to avoid the "dictatorship of relativism". I have been reading a book called A Refutation of Moral Relativism, put together by Peter Kreeft. The following is a short essay of mine of why moral relativism is untenable.
Slavery is wrong, as is murder. Most people accept these. But, how do these people know these things are true? Someone told them, but who told the tellers? Eventually it comes from reason. Each person possesses reason; each has a conscience. How can an action be judged as right or wrong? We must appeal to an authority, and that authority is natural law.
Natural law is as strong and binding as physical laws such as gravity and energy. They do not depend on our interpretation or feelings, they exist independently. Murder is wrong regardless. It doesn’t matter how angry we are, how much higher our status is than the victim’s, it makes no difference how much the person “deserves” it, because it is inherently wrong. Sometimes however, this distinction is hard to make, and we cannot determine ourselves right from wrong.
Most people nowadays accept that slavery is wrong and an affront to each person’s dignity as a human being. It cannot be accepted. But what if you were to speak to someone from 300 years ago who owned slaves. You two could argue about whether or not owning a slave is right or wrong. But the truth cannot have it both ways, truth can only be one. Truth never has and never will change. Your opinion is not the truth, your status does not give you the truth, the truth is the truth, and exists independently. If morals are not based on an absolute truth, what are they based on? The only alternative is a relative truth. This, by definition, is a truth which one person accepts, but someone else may reject. It comes down to opinions. In one person’s opinion, slavery is right, in another’s, it is wrong. So who’s right? According to relative morality, either could be or simple is correct. This makes no sense. You have an opinion, but an opinion cannot be an opinion about an opinion, an opinion is an opinion about the truth. Therefore, you must discover the truth in order to determine if your opinion is right. Your opinion could be wrong.
You cannot simply say something is wrong, especially if you admit you do not know. You just have to sit back and watch things happen and hope they turn out for the best. The only model which you sanction is anarchy. You can accept your own opinions, but you must then also accept everyone else’s, no matter how much they offend you. Otherwise, you are saying that a relative morality applies to you, but that an absolute morality applies to everyone else’s. In other words, you have to accept that a person owns a slave, because in their opinion or their own “personal” morals, that is alright. If you say they should not own a slave, you are overriding their moral perspective, and appealing to a superseding value which surpasses this person’s belief. Therefore you are appealing to something greater than personal relative morality; you are appealing to an objective, transcendent morality. You have two options: you can admit there is an absolute morality, or you can maintain a relative morality, but by doing so you must accept everyone else’s behavior and morals. Law enforcement cannot stop them from doing something, because that would be saying your morals are more worthy than the other person’s morals. You could only do something personally to rectify the situation. Saying something is right or wrong would not be valid either, because you would have to admit that you did not know, and you could not impose your personal morals on anyone else. You could at most say, “I do not personally believe that is right”. Only when you admit that there is a natural law, one which is above personal opinion and beliefs, one which is unchanging, can you claim that an action is morally right or wrong.
Vladimir Lenin, a political leader who taught a form of communism and was the first head of the Soviet Union, came to power in an effort to force everyone into the same social class. Many believe communism can be beneficial to society, but in practice it never works, and there are many reasons why it cannot work. In fact, the Catholic Church is officially against communism. One of Lenin's goals was to eliminate religion from his country. This destroys the concept of freedom and goes against principles of humanity. Ultimately, Leninism failed, and millions of people lost their lives fighting wars to implement it. Lenin was very sad on his deathbed because of all the suffering and loss he brought to his country. He said he felt as though he was lying in a giant pool of blood, the blood of his fellow countrymen.
In his last words, Lenin, who was against religion in general, set his sights to one of Christianity's greatest heroes - St. Francis of Assisi. Lenin knew that his ideology had lost, and that Russia had lost, and contemplated what would be required to restore Russia, when he said these words:
"I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi."
This shows the amazing character of St. Francis, which is attested to by Lenin.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It is well-known by many holy men and women of God, that the holier one is and the more pious one strives to be, the more the Devil will seek to tempt you. This was no different than many of the great saints we venerate today. I will profile three of these saints in this posting, and show how they were tempted, and how they dealt with it. These men are Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and Saint Benedict.
Saint Francis of Assisi knew well the temptations of the body and how they interfered with the desires of the soul. Because the body is made to carry burdens, and sometimes is sluggish and needs to be beaten, St. Francis called it Brother Ass. In his early years in the 1200s, Francis was often tempted, sometimes almost unbearably. To overcome this temptation, he sometimes rolled around in the snow. This must have an effect similar to getting a cold shower, except it is probably a lot colder. When there was no snow and St. Francis was strongly tempted, he would throw himself onto thorn bushes. This would tear his skin and cause him to bleed. St. Francis understood the dangers of temptation, and avoided them at all costs.
From the book "A History of the Church: from the birth of Christ to the present time", written in 1834 by Charles A. Goodrich, the author describes the lengths to which St. Bernard of Clairvaux would go to avoid temptation. It states: "Such was his austerity, that happening one day to fix his eyes on a female face, he immediately reflected that this was a temptation, and running to a pond, he leaped up to his neck into the water, which was of an icy coldness, to punish himself and vanquish the enemy."
St. Benedict, the founder of Western monastic life, was also tempted thoroughly by the Devil. Yet, with grace, he was able to overcome his tempter. The following information was found on EWTN.com's website, and is quoted from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc:
Benedict, like the Desert Fathers, had to struggle with temptations of the flesh and the devil. One of these struggles is described by Gregory. "On a certain day when he was alone the tempter presented himself. A small dark bird, commonly called a blackbird, began to fly around his face and came so near him that, if he had wished, he could have seized it with his hand. But on his making the sign of the cross, the bird flew away. Then followed a violent temptation of the flesh, such as he had never before experienced. The evil spirit brought before his imagination a woman whom he had formerly seen, and inflamed his heart with such vehement desire at the memory of her that he had very great difficulty in repressing it. He was almost overcome and thought of leaving his solitude. Suddenly, however, with the help of divine grace, he found the strength he needed. Seeing near at hand a thick growth of briars and nettles, he stripped off his habit and cast himself into the midst of them and plunged and tossed about until his whole body was lacerated. Thus, through those bodily wounds, he cured the wounds of his soul." Never again was he troubled in the same way.
As the founder of Opus Dei, Josemaria Escriva said, "To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond... You..., what have you done?"
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
After reading more about Padre Pio, my interest grew in this amazing man of Christ and of miracles. There is hardly a charism which Padre Pio did not receive from God, and he performed many miracles while alive, and continues to do so through his powerful intercessions to Christ. In fact, as was the title of a post not too long ago, Padre Pio said he would do his most powerful work after his death.
After reading more information on Padre Pio, I downloaded a radio program broadcast by Catholic Answers Live, a Catholic radio call-in show. I have a link for the website on my blog. The particular program which I downloaded was on Padre Pio. The lady on the show wrote several book on Padre Pio and described one particular miracle which was attributed to him. I sought and found a website which describes this miracle in further detail. The article is below:
More astounding still may be the thoroughly-documented cure of a construction worker named Giovanni Savino, who was severely injured on February 15, 1949, in a dynamite mishap. When Dr. Guglielmo San- guinetti, a physican, and Padre Raffaele, another Capuchin, and Father Dominic Meyer rushed to the injured man's side, “all three men noted that among Savino's numerous injuries, his right eye was gone entirely. They agreed that 'the socket was empty',” reports biographer Bernard Ruffin. Other doctors confirmed that the eye was completely annihilated and the other one badly damaged.
It looked like Savino was also going to be totally blind. For three days, the worker lay on a hospital bed with his head and face bandaged. When a surgeon entered the room three days later, Savino reported that Padre Pio had visited him — something Savino recognized because he had detected the beautiful aroma so often reported around the priest. A week later, at about one a.m. on February 25, 1949, Savino felt a slap on the right side of his face — the side where the eye was completely gone. “I asked, 'Who touched me?'” testified Savino. “There was nobody. Again I smelled the aroma of Padre Pio. It was beautiful.”
When later the ophthalmologist — an atheist — came to examine the remaining eye, there was a shock. “To their amazement,” writes Ruffin, “the doctors found that his shattered face was fully healed and covered with new skin. Savino, however, was most delighted at the fact that he could see. 'I can see you!' he said excitedly to the eye specialist.”
And indeed, as is medically documented, the doctor saw, to his “utter astonishment”, that Savino had his right eye back. Somehow, the eye had materialized. (“Now I believe too,” exclaimed the doctor, “because of what my own hands have touched!”) As Ruffin notes, it's one thing when diseases disappear; this is exciting. It's tremendous to hear of diabetes or arthritis or even cancer leaving a person. “For a missing part of the body to be restored, however, is another matter,” noted the expert biographer.
(Special thanks goes to Pilgrims of St. Michael - http://www.michaeljournal.org/stpio.htm)
In a fascinating article by the British Daily Mail, the top Vatican Exorcist Gabriele Amorth, who wrote the book titled "An Exorcist Tells his Story", which I profiled in another blog posting and which I am currently in the process of reading. The following is from the Daily Mail website:
Adolf Hitler and Russian leader Stalin were possessed by the Devil, the Vatican's chief exorcist has claimed.
Father Gabriele Amorth who is Pope Benedict XVI's 'caster out of demons' made his comments during an interview with Vatican Radio.
Father Amorth said: "Of course the Devil exists and he can not only possess a single person but also groups and entire populations.
"I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler - and Stalin did. Almost certainly they were possessed by the Devil.
"You can tell by their behaviour and their actions, from the horrors they committed and the atrocities that were committed on their orders. That's why we need to defend society from demons."
According to secret Vatican documents recently released wartime pontiff Pope Pius XII attempted a "long distance" exorcism of Hitler which failed to have any effect.
Father Amorth said: "It's very rare that praying and attempting to carry out an exorcism from distance works.
"Of course you can pray for someone from a distance but in this case it would not have any effect.
"One of the key requirements for an exorcism is to be present in front of the possessed person and that person also has to be consenting and willing.
"Therefore trying to carry out an exorcism on someone who is not present, or consenting and willing would prove very difficult.
"However I have no doubt that Hitler was possessed and so it does not surprise me that Pope Pius XII tried a long distance exorcism."
In the past Father Amorth has also spoken out against the Harry Potter books, claiming that reading the novels of the teen wizard open children's minds to dabbling with the occult and black magic.
Father Amorth, who is president of the International Association of Exorcists, said of the JK Rowling books:"Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil."
He said that Rowling's books contain innumerable positive references to magic, "the satanic art" and added the books attempt to make a false distinction between black and white magic, when in fact, the distinction "does not exist, because magic is always a turn to the devil."
Father Amorth is said to have carried out more than 30,000 exorcisms in his career and his favourite film is, according to Italian newspapers The Exorcist.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione in 1887, was one of our centuries most miraculous saints. Throughout his life, Padre Pio journeyed with Christ, in a very intimate way. As one may have guessed, this caused anger from Satan, whose attacks become all the stronger the closer someone comes to Christ. With this relationship, Padre Pio suffered greatly, and bore the afflictions of Christ. In this essay, I will explore the life of Padre Pio, and explain the sufferings and joys he endured.
At a very early age, Padre Pio was very pious. His family, though illiterate, memorized the Bible and passed down religious tradition to their children. As a child, Pio communicated with Jesus, Mary, and his Guardian Angel, and did so with such ease that he at first though anyone could easily.
As a youth, Padre Pio experienced visions and ecstacies, and was drawn, by the age of 10 to the life of a Capuchin friar. When he was the right age, his family brought young Pio to the Capuchin community to see if he was eligible to enter their ranks. They said they would willingly accept him, on condition that he further his education first.
Pio's father had to go to the United States in order to make the money necessary for young Pio to get the right education. At the age of 15, Pio entered the Capuchin community. During his novitiate, it is believed that Pio was subjected to attacks by the Devil, which appeared in the form of a monstrous black dog with red eyes.
Padre Pio is famous for his visible stigmata in the form of the wounds bore by Christ. However, much before receiving visible stigmata, Padre Pio was subjected to inivisible stigmata, in which he received the pain of the wounds, without the wounds themselves. The pain was often quite severe.
Padre Pio spent much time in prayer, until he was assigned to go to war during the first world war. Padre Pio disagreed with the War, calling it "the suicide of Europe".
During this period of spiritual suffering, it is believed that Padre Pio was frequently attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. It is believed that the devil also used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio's torments. These included apparitions as an "angel of light" and the alteration or destruction of letters to and from his spiritual directors. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this information).
As one of his most supernatural sufferings, Padre Pio received Transverberation. World War I was still going on, and in the month of July 1918, Pope Benedict XV who had termed the World War as "the suicide of Europe" appealed to all Christians urging them to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27 of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between August 5 and August 7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side. As a result of this experience, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. This occurrence is considered as a "transverberation" or piercing of the heart indicating the union of love with God.
Padre Pio was very embarrased of his visible stigmata, and tried to hide it as much as possible. Padre Pio prayed, not to be released from the pain of stigmata, but from the visible signs of it. He said: "I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation."
Although Padre Pio would have rathered remain in secret, the world soon knew of the stigmata he suffered, and the miracles he worked. Eventually, everyone in the Christian world and beyond knew of Padre Pio.
People close to Padre Pio affirm that he received many gifts including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment (One account states that Padre Agostino recorded one instance in which Padre Pio was able to subsist for at least 20 days at Verafeno on only the Eucharist without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and the fragrance from his wounds.
The Death of Padre Pio
The deterioration of Padre Pio's health started during the 1960s in spite of which he continued his spiritual works. On the day after the fiftieth anniversary of his receiving the Stigmata, he experienced great tiredness. On September 22 his voice was weak when he said Mass. Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. As was customary, he had his Rosary in his hands, though he had not the strength to say the Hail Marys. Till the end, he repeated over and over the words: Gesú, Maria – Jesus, Mary. At around 2:30AM, he said,"I see two mothers" (taken to mean his mother and Mary). At 2:30AM breathed his last in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, "Maria!". His mortal remains were buried on September 26 in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, and his funeral was attended by over a hundred thousand people. He was often heard to say, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without even leaving a scar . Only a red mark "as if drawn by a red pencil" remained on his side which also then disappeared.
May we all say a prayer to Saint Padre Pio, whose powerful intercession we can count on every day!
Here's a clue: It's not St. Peter's Basilica. The giant Basilica designed by Michelangelo and others throughout the centuries, and completed in the 16th, known as St. Peter's Basilica, which can be seen in St. Peter's Square, and is by far the most well-known basilica in the world, is amazingly, not the highest ranking church in the Catholic Church. It is in fact the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
St. John Lateran Basilica is the cathedral church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. Officially named Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris (Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior), it is the oldest and ranks first (being the only cathedral in Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church (mother church of the whole inhabited world) among Catholics.
This very beautiful cathedral has a very amazing history. The place where the cathedral is now located, was once used by Roman emperors, and was given, as a gift, to the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), by Emperor Constantine, when Christianity was legalized and became the official religion of the Roman empire.
The official dedication of the Basilica and the adjacent Lateran Palace was presided over by Pope Sylvester I in 324, declaring both to be Domus Dei or "House of God." In its interior, the Papal Throne was placed, making it the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. In reflection of the basilica's primacy in the world as mother church, the words Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput are incised in the main door, meaning "Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head."
The Lateran Palace and basilica have been rededicated twice. Pope Sergius III dedicated them to Saint John the Baptist in the 10th century in honor of the newly consecrated baptistry of the Basilica. Pope Lucius II dedicated the Lateran Palace and basilica to Saint John the Evangelist in the 12th century. However, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are regarded as co-patrons of the Cathedral, the chief patron being Christ the Saviour himself, as the inscription in the entrance of the Basilica indicates, and as is tradition in the Patriachal Cathedrals. Thus, the Basilica remains dedicated to the Saviour. That is why sometimes the Basilica will be referred to by the full title of Archabsilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Sts. John Baptist and John Evangelist in the Lateran.
Next time you're in Rome, make sure to visit the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
If one is unaware of Catholic teaching in its fullness, there may seem to be a contradiction when it comes to the death penalty. On one hand, the pope, especially the previous one, was very much against the death penalty, in fact, often writing to lawmakers and judges to have execution sentences commuted, in places such as the United States and other developed nations. The previous pope even said that in today's day and age, death sentences should almost never take place. This may seem to contradict the official teaching of the Church that the death penalty is not morally wrong in all cases. To understand the seeming disparity between these statements, it is important to understand the extent to which the death penalty is morally possible.
In his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" (The Gospel of Life) issued March 25, 1995 after four years of consultations with the world's Roman Catholic bishops, John Paul II wrote that execution is only appropriate "in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady immprovement [sic] in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (From PBS.org)
In other words, the death penalty should only be used in the case that if it wasn't, society would be at a serious risk, for instance of someone murdering many innocent people. This is very rarely the circumstance in developed nations such as here in Canada, or in the United States. It is possible that in our fallen human nature, we may at times wish to have someone pay the ultimate price, but we must look not at what we want, but what God wants, and ultimately God wants us to forgive those who hate us, and that all people no matter what their sins, seek forgiveness and attain salvation.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Catholics can be found in any country in the entire world. Usually countries where Catholicism is dominant, you can find peace and democracy. Which countries have the largest numbers and percentages of Catholics worldwide? The following is from adherents.com and gives an interesting picture. The country with the highest percentage of Catholics is, as you may have guessed, Vatican City. I will list the highest by percentage and by number (click the tables to see them larger).
As you can see, there are many countries in the world with huge numbers of Catholics, and many where we are the majority. In the entire world, there are well over a billion Catholics.
(Special thanks for this information goes to adherents.com)
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I am very excited about this blog posting, because it is number 50! I would like to thank everyone who has read this blog and is a regular visitor to this site. I appreciate your feedback and comments about this site, and I encourage you to send in your topic suggestions. Thanks. Now on to the article!
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist is located in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. This is where I am from and write my blog. This basilica, which is now considered a cathedral, has a very special place in the ecclesiastical history of Newfoundland, as well as Canada, and even North America.
The Basilica was completed in the year 1855 after 16 years of construction. Amazingly, at the time of its building, it was the largest church in size in all of North America, including all of Canada, the US, and Mexico. It was built under the direction of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, who came from Ireland in the 1800s. Bishop Fleming was integral to shaping Newfoundland culture in those years, and was even responsible for developing the old Newfoundland Flag, which today is used by those seeking an independent Newfoundland. The flag is divided into thirds: pink, white and green. The pink represents Protestants (English pink), the green represents Catholics (from Ireland mostly), and the white in between represents peace between the two. This flag is still in use today, although not officially, as the flag representing those who want an Independent Newfoundland.
The Basilica is the current seat of the Bishop of Newfoundland, Brendan O'Brien, and is the most beautiful structure in Newfoundland. Because of its importance in Newfoundland spirituality and worship, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist holds a special place in the hearts of everyone here.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
In 1961, Portugal was being run by a dictator named António de Oliveira Salazar. Freedoms were stiffled, and the country was run as a dictatorship. A group of students in the city of Coimbra lifted their glasses in a toast to freedom in Portugal. They were found in the cafe, and put into prison for this act, and spent 7 years there. Fortunately for the world, Peter Benenson heard this news, and decided he must do something.
Peter Benenson was a lawyer by trade, who became quite ill. He went to Italy to regain his health, and while there, converted to the Catholic faith. While in Italy, Benenson decided it was necessary to start an International organization which was open to everyone. While in the tube in London, Benenson read an article about the Portuguese students mentioned above. He was outraged and wrote a letter to a newspaper called the Observer. He asked people to write letters concerning this injustice. The letters came in fast and furious, so much so, that Benenson started an organization known as Amnesty International.
Today, Amnesty International is the largest organization dedicated to helping those who are unjustly imprisoned, as political or ideological prisoners. It has been very active and successful in this endeavor so far. It has 1.8 million members worldwide who put pressure on foreign governments to release people who should not be in prison, as well as to end torture and abuse.
The work of Amnesty International cannot be overstated. This vast and strong organization came about because of Peter Benenson's, who unfortunately died in 2005 at the age of 83, conversion to Christ and His Church.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Tom Monaghan didn't have a conversion from another faith, but came to see his own faith in a stronger way. He developed a stronger devotion to ideals with which he was raised. Many have not heard the name Tom Monaghan, but he was the owner of the Baseball team the Detroit Tigers, but more famously he made his fortune as the owner of Domino's pizza. He became extremely rich, in the hundreds of millions, as he owned the most successful pizza franchise in the world. He was rich and he used his money to buy expensive things, such as houses and cars. One example of his extravagence was his leather floor in his huge office.
After reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis in 1989, Monaghan had a great awakening and felt he was living a life with too much pride and ego. He sold most of his expensive possession, and a mansion which he was building remains half-finished. Monaghan took 2 years off to explore spiritual and personal goals. He devoted himself fully to living a Catholic life. The following information is from Wikipedia, and you can go there to find its sources:
Monaghan is a conservative Republican Catholic with a particular interest in advocating for the right to life and for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. In 1983 he established the Mater Christi Foundation, today known as the Ave Maria Foundation. It is a private foundation formed to focus on Catholic education, Catholic media, community projects and other Catholic charities.
He helped form Legatus, an organization of high-profile Catholic business leaders to promote the ideals of the Church in society. The name was taken from the Latin meaning "ambassador". Legatus was to serve as a spiritual resource and social community for those Catholics who stand at the helm of America's entrepreneurial ship. The idea came after he received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II in his private papal chapel at the Vatican in 1987. Today there are 34 chapters in the U.S. and Canada which encompass nearly 1,500 members who represent over 750 major firms.
That Vatican visit moved him so much he returned to the United States committed to promoting the Catholic faith. He soon established Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List pro-life political action committee, and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm focused on defending the rights of Christians. The foundation donates resources to help alleviate poverty in Central and South America. In addition, his foundation established the Spritus Sanctus Academies. These elementary schools are administered by the newly established community of nuns, the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. This thriving order of teaching sisters has benefited from Monaghan's philanthropy, and has so many new young nuns that it had to double the size of its convent almost immediately.
The Ave Maria Foundation has subsequently fine-tuned its focus to higher education, and has established both a university and a law school. Along with that change in focus, many of the other non-profit entities that the Ave Maria Foundation established have become independent or are in the process of being weaned from Ave Maria Foundation grants. This narrowing of focus and the recent geographic re-alignment to Florida (see below) have ignited no small amount of controversy among those who share his religious convictions.
The Ave Maria School of Law, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened its doors in 2000, and received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in 2005, the earliest possible date under ABA rules. The school was a dream of several professors from the University of Detroit Mercy, who publicly left that institution when it allowed several pro-choice members of the Michigan Supreme Court to appear at the school's annual "Red Mass." Professors Stephen Safranek, Mollie Murphy, Richard Myers and Joseph Falvey, setting out to form a new orthodox Catholic law school, presented their idea to Monaghan (who had previously been a strong supporter of opening a new law school at Franciscan University) to provide significant funding through his Ave Maria Foundation. Together they enlisted Bernard Dobranski, Dean at The Catholic University of America's law school and former Dean of Detroit Mercy's Law School, to lead up the new school as dean. Monaghan would serve as president of the school's Board of Governors.
A conversion to Christ is a powerful thing and can, as happened in this case, result in a great change in life for the better.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has built the most spectacular and awe-inspiring places of the worship the world has ever seen. For centuries, churches were the tallest structures of every town in Europe, and around the world. In many countries, this remains the case. They remain the most breath-taking monuments in society. Often built by members of society as a work of love, these buildings touch the sky, and upon entering, people are transported to a new world. You can feel the presence of God all around you. The Catholic Church realizes the importance of these great structures, and that is why for over 1,000 years, the Church has built some of the most amazing examples of human achievement.
Unfortunately, however, the Church suffered great loss in her history. Many of these amazing places of worship were conquered by heretics and schismatics. Often, the treasures of these churches, preserved for generations for the benefit of all were ransacked and stolen. Often Churches were badly damaged, often left in disrepair. Even if these churches were not damaged, they were still stolen. This is very sad, and unfortunate. Almost every magnificent place for Christian worship that has achieved great fame in a country, be it a church, basilica, or cathedral, was once a Catholic or remains one to this day. I will look at some of the most famous Cathedrals in the World, which were stolen from the Catholic Church.
Located in Germany, it is the tallest church in the world, and was the tallest building in the world from 1890-1908. It was built in 1377 by Catholics, and later taken from them by Lutherans. The Cologne Cathedral of Germany is the second tallest church in the world, but it has 2 spires instead of one.
The building of this amazing Cathedral began in 1191 by Bishop Reginald de Bohun. It was worked on during the 12th and early 13th centuries, and was mostly completed by 1239. In the years and decades to come, more expansions were made to accommodate a growing congregation. Eventually the Cathedral was taken over by Anglicans.
Perhaps the best-known Cathedral in the United Kingdom, Westminster Abbey is the Cathedral where the Kings and Queens of England are crowned. This is quite a spectacular building, which resembles the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. It was completed before King Henry VIII, but Henry violently took over this Cathedral, like many others, when he broke away from the Catholic Church.
These are just 3 examples of Churches which were apprehended illegally by non-Catholic groups. Fortunately, most of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world remain the property of the Catholic Church. The next time you see a magnificent church, remember that it was probably once a Catholic Cathedral.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I am currently reading a book called “An exorcist tells his story” by Father Gabriele Amorth. The Introduction for the English version is written by Fr. Benedict Groschel, who is a famous priest and psychologist from New York, NY.
The book gives information on the work of exorcists. I have not yet read the entire book, but so far it is very fascinating. In it, Fr. Amorth says that more dioceses need an exorcist, and that their role has not been given the careful attention it deserves. Amorth goes deeply into the subject of exorcism, and the nature of demonic influences, which go beyond famously portrayed possessions. The Devil can influence and cause suffering to victims in various ways, such as causing scary things to happen around the person, while not actually possessing the person.
Some of the most interesting points in the book so far are that during things such as séances, any voices that people hear are not from the dead, but from demons. People are either in heaven, hell or Purgatory, and do not walk the Earth as spirits. Another interesting subject is how to tell if something is demonic and whether it is from God. Sometimes people are given special abilities, such as being able to speak in other languages, knowing information which is hidden, etc. Fr. Amorth gives ways to determine the source of various seemingly inexplicable phenomena. One indication is the effect a supernatural ability has on a person. If the ability has beneficial effect, such as giving the person greater humility, peace, joy, and comfort, it is usually from God, but if it makes the person more selfish, arrogant, or proud, or gives them a great fear of death where there was none before, it is quite possible this influence is from the Devil.
This book counters the popular belief that all things can be explained by science, such as psychology. The author acknowledges the beneficial role that science plays in society and points out that the Church recognizes the validity of science. However, he cautions that it is unwise to put all belief in it. Many times a person that could not be helped by psychology and psychiatry finds healing in exorcism. No one knows this better than Fr. Amorth, who is the chief exorcist of Rome, and the author of this book. Fr. Amorth makes a great point - that exorcisms can only be beneficial. Even if someone is not possessed or oppressed by Satan or demons in any way, an exorcism can do nothing but help, and will even help those who are not afflicted.
This book contains valuable information which is fascinating to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is written in an easy-to-read style and appeals to a general audience. To find out more about this book, or to order it from Ignatius Press (the Publisher), please click here.