Friday, November 30, 2012

The Enemy Within

In today’s (November 30) episode of the Vortex, Michael Voris talks about “the devil inside” (video at the end of the post; full script here):

It’s never the enemy OUTSIDE the gates that brings your house crashing down. It’s lack of preparedness and living in a state of denial that is the real problem.

And such is the state of affairs today in large swaths of the Catholic world…

Voris points out that, judging by a lot of Catholic blogs and websites, “you’d walk away with the impression that what ails the Church today is Obama.” He adds:

One Catholic speaker is even giving a presentation in the upcoming weeks called something like Catholic surviving Obama. PLEASE! What a weird and meaningless topic. Catholics already had their chance to survive Obama: it was called “election night”. Too late. Fifty percent like him and voted for him. Case closed.

What Catholics need to survive is the enemy within the gates.

Like the soft heresy that is peddled non-stop because it’s rarely if ever challenged.

Like the near total lack of understanding what the Church actually is.

Like the continual downward spiral of Masses that look like little else than a warmed-over Protestant service, replete with abuses and not to mention the misguided theological emphasis at most of them.

Like the constant blurring of the lines between the ordained clergy and the laity.  

There is SO MUCH wrong in the Church that CAN be corrected and simply isn’t because…the men charged with correcting [the problems] refuse to [do so].

Why do they refuse to correct the problems? Voris has some thoughts – watch the video or read the script to see what they are. I want to focus on the part where he says

Listen to this communications we received a day or so ago. It sums it up pretty well.

"I would like a frank discussion from CMTV on how the catastrophic institutional failure of the Catholic Church before our very eyes since Vatican II squares with it being the One True Church under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. Smiling at sodomy and officially-sponsored heresy like Fr. John Crossin's (Director of the USCCB's Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs) “Generations of Faith” mini-Assisi earlier this month in Washington, can't be shrugged off as a problem of dissident priests or theologians. In his keynote speech to Moslems, Hindus, and Sikhs he said that their conversation may lead Catholics to understand how their beliefs might be wrong. It's all proudly on the USCCB's website. I have four kids in their 20s who are struggling with the cognitive dissonance between the faith as carefully handed down by their parents and the reality they are finding on their own. I've lost one already, and it breaks my heart.”

Curious, I went to the USCCB website and found several links (here, here, and here) related to this. In fairness, I think we must acknowledge that Fr. Crossin did not actually say that Catholics might be led “to understand how their beliefs might be wrong”.  At least, I can’t find that statement. What he does say in the speech (and elsewhere) is this:

“Our conversation may even lead us to discover that we Catholics have been mistaken in our understanding of the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

That’s a little different. Certainly, we can find many Catholics who are “mistaken” in their understandings of the beliefs of the Church – like why the Church teaches that artificial contraception is a moral evil, for instance. However, Fr. Crossin does not explain any further or give an example to illustrate what he means by his statement.

NONETHELESS…this really takes nothing away from the point of this episode of the Vortex. If you read the speeches at the link (Fr. Crossin gave “introductory remarks” and the keynote address was given by Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout), you will find a lot of “feel good” kind of talk. Well, I suppose that’s what the conference was about, in essence: feeling good and making inter-faith friends.

Maybe Fr. Crossin has made his own slight error in “understanding the beliefs of the Catholic Church”.  For instance, he might gain something by reading Monsignor Charles Pope’s recent blog post entitled “How Ignoring Two Little Words Has Devastated Evangelization”. I recommend reading the entire post, but I’ll cut to the chase as to what the two little words are. Msgr. Pope says (emphasis in original):

What are these words? Simply these:

“But often….”

Perhaps you are less than amazed and wonder what they could have to do with evangelization, let alone urgency. These words occur in a critical text of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium # 16, which is often misunderstood to teach that just about everyone will be saved, baptized or not. Yet these two little words (“But often”) and the three sentences that follow set forth a critical interpretive key that is often wholly ignored by many who hold an expansive and universalist notion of salvation.

[He inserts a section from paragraph 16 of Lumen Gentium]

Clearly, the text expansively sets forth a case for God’s goodness and His desire to save all people. He will regard the good will of those who, through invincible ignorance, do not come to explicit confession of Jesus. And, presuming they are sincerely seeking God and striving to live according to the dictates of conscience, God can indeed save them.

But while such a scenario is certainly possible, we ought not presume it is widespread, or even necessarily common. And, the Lumen Gentium text does NOT in fact presume that.

And this is where our two little words are critical. For having set forth the possibility of salvation apart from explicit confession of Jesus and baptism, the text then states with proper and biblical sobriety:

BUT OFTEN men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.

Msgr. Pope's post includes a video of Dr. Ralph Martin commenting on this topic, and notes that the post is a summary of “a central point [Dr. Martin] makes in his important book: Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches.

(I’ve seen the book mentioned by others; seems like it might be worth reading!)

Perhaps I’m missing something. When we engage in “ecumenism”, does that mean we don’t preach the Gospel…you know, in order to be “nice”? Or should “ecumenism” and “evangelization” go hand-in-hand? Well, in the end, it’s all about salvation, right? I think we ought to be spreading the word to Catholics and non-Catholics (and even non-Christians!) that there is no salvation outside the Church. That IS what the Church teaches…isn’t it?

At any rate, while I’m sure Msgr. Pope doesn’t want to be set up in opposition to the USCCB, it certainly seems to me that he has a more authentic, Catholic view of the topic of evangelization than the USCCB does!

Once again, Michael Voris is right on target in the Vortex, as he concludes:

WHY WHY WHY won’t the bishops and the Catholic media talk about the REAL problem and, most importantly, DO SOMETHING about it – and stop, once and for all, talking about the economy and immigration and fiscal policy. No one is listening.

Obama isn’t the problem. He’s the proof and symptom of a Church membership and leadership that simply won’t face the reality, and in so doing has lost its way.
Faithful Catholics have simply got to step up and call it like it is.

Sometimes it seems like an effort in futility to keep “stepping up and calling it like it is”. But it is our duty.

And, of course, don’t forget to pray and fast, and give your alms to a truly Catholic cause.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prayers for the Salvation of Souls

As we fortify ourselves by learning more about the faith, we of course must remember to pray without ceasing! I found these prayers in Blessed Be God, and have been praying them daily for some time.

I like this first one for those I know who have “strayed out of the fold”, leaving the Catholic Church into which they’d been baptized:

Prayer for Heretics and Unbelievers

Lord Jesus, most merciful Savior of the world, we humbly beseech Thee, by Thy most Sacred Heart, that all the sheep who stray out of Thy fold, as well as those who are held by the darkness of error, may be converted to Thee, the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

Then there is this one for those among us who don’t yet even believe in God. I think also of those (like my friend Doc) who are Christians, and have examined the Catholic faith to some extent, but have rejected it; I like the line about having “courage to accept the faith and openly profess it” because it does take courage. In being received by the Church, one must make that profession that declares that “I believe all” that the Church teaches. Well, how can you ever know “all”?! That’s where faith comes in…and courage.

Prayer for the Conversion of Unbelievers

O Holy Spirit of truth, we beseech Thee to enlighten the minds of unbelievers in the midst of us; to incline their hearts to love Thy word, and to believe the teachings of Thy Church; give them courage to accept the faith and openly profess it; that they may come into union with Thee and the Father, through Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth forever and ever.

And here’s one for “sinners”…which is all of us, of course, but this is particularly for those sinners who are not repentant, who continue to live in their sin. I think of people like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, but there are plenty of lesser-known individuals among our own families and friends, I’m sure!

Prayer for Sinners

Almighty and eternal God, Who sleekest not the death  but the life of sinners, Who wouldst save all and have none to perish, mercifully hear our prayers on behalf of those who are dead in sin and grant that they may repent and live again in Thy grace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I like the above three; I pray them together, as they address each of the Persons of the Trinity. I also pray this one, addressed to Our Lady:

Prayer to Our Lady of Victory

O Victorious Lady! Thou who has ever such powerful influence with thy divine Son in conquering the hardest of hearts, intercede for those for whom we pray, that their hearts being softened by the rays of divine grace, they may return to the unity of the true faith, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Knuckling Down: Vortex

Did you catch that great Vortex episode from Tuesday (Nov. 27), “Time to Knuckle Down”? If not, here it is. Below, I’ve commented on excerpts from the script; you can read the entire script here.

Michael Voris starts out the Vortex by pointing out that there are two sides to every story; and the story is “The Church is in a crisis at nearly every level.”

Some people would like us to believe that “things are bad here and there, but generally things are improving”, and Voris acknowledges that there is some validity to that assessment… “here and there. But only here and there.”

He goes on to say:

The other side of the story, which we here at ChurchMilitant.TV focus on, is this:  The Church is STILL mired in a crisis because of the lack of response on the part of so many Catholics to acknowledge the depth and degree of the crisis. This lack of response is owing to two major areas: ignorance and cowardice.

Let’s talk briefly first about ignorance. Many, many Catholics today simply have no idea of how far the Church has fallen from her previous self-understanding. Fifty years ago, many more Catholics knew who they were and what it meant to be Catholic. Were they perfect? Of course not? Were they always right? Nope.

But they had an identity, an awareness that they were and were commanded to be different from the world. This is absolutely not true today.

In America alone, tens of millions of Catholics are walking around every day in a state of objective evil – having dismissed the importance of attending Mass this past Sunday…or any Sunday for that matter.

And then Voris points out that even among Catholics who do still attend Mass

…most are blissfully ignorant or unaware of this. They have relatives and friends who are nominally Catholic who haven’t set foot in Church in years…who they would never think of saying something to like, “You know, when you deliberately miss Mass you are placing yourself in jeopardy of eternal damnation.”

Imagine the hullaballoo that would result if that was said.

Ain’t that the truth!?! We don’t say that to our friends and relatives, do we? Not often, anyway…because it’s so judgmental. Is it my business whether a friend or relative goes to Mass? Uh…why, yes, it is.

When we stopped attending Mass locally, we were never contacted by the pastor concerning our absence. I mean, you’re talking about the family that sat in the third row from the front on the right-hand side every single Sunday and Holy Day...without fail (unless we were out of town, which was not often).  We saw people we knew at the grocery store; no one ever said a word about not seeing us at Mass any more – except for one man. We were buying a washing machine from him at his store, and he did say, quietly and with a sincere smile, “I haven’t seen you at Mass in a long time.” I really appreciated that. We assured him that we were still regularly attending Mass – just at a different parish.

The thing is, as Michael Voris says, most Catholics don’t think in those terms “because it has been drummed out of them for decades now”; who has ever heard a priest preach on the importance of attending Mass every week?
It's not really a good strategy...
Michael Voris continues:

Then there is the issue of cowardice: the refusal to confront the evil and the wrong that you DO SEE and ARE aware of. As we hear in the Apocalypse, heading the list of the damned will be the cowards – those who knew and did either nothing or painfully little.

And what needs to be done that too many leaders are simply unwilling to do? A total and complete reversal of the sickness that has seized Holy Mother Church.  

That illness, Voris asserts, has as its symptoms the news items we see about Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden misrepresenting Catholic teaching, or Obama being invited to speak at Notre Dame, etc.

Those incidents are merely symptoms of the underlying far worse illness. [They] are like the tumors that become visible when a body is riddled with disease and infection. If it looks like that from time to time on the outside, what must the case be on the inside?

The “inside” of the Church is the parish, and this is where – in thousands of parishes, week after week – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Catholics are continually subjected to the slow administration of spiritual poison.

And it all happens very quietly, almost unnoticed…

Voris gives two examples of the “occasional notice” in the bulletin, or the story in the diocesan newspaper that quietly undermines the faith. He provides links to two such examples, here (scroll down to page 2 to see a priest extolling and promoting a homosexualist TV series) and here (where two nuns suggest, basically, that while we “need” priests, the laity is doing just fine without them). Voris maintains that

[T]his type of thing is business as usual in thousands of parishes every Sunday, week in and week out. The faithful are constantly subjected to these distortions and diversions from sanctity and it is simply allowed to go on unchecked. It’s not so much the words – although they can’t be dismissed – but the underlying spirit of rebellion that is slightly masked over by the appeal to niceness and injection of a little humor here and there just to make the poison a little more honey flavored.

I touched on that same point in this post a few months ago. It’s not the big, glaring, outrageous liturgical abuses and flaunting of Church teaching that do the most damage; many can see the error there. It’s the quiet, incremental commissions and omissions that work the evil. As Voris says,

So each week, in thousands of parishes, thousands of moments are missed by refusing to talk about hell, sin, damnation, evil, contraception, homosexual sins, adultery, custody of the eyes, co-habitation, pre-marital sex and so on.

But SOMETHING needs to be said that at least SOUNDS religious, so we hear about social justice or the need to forgive – which by the way is almost NEVER accompanied by the express call that GOD HIMSELF NEEDS to forgive us in the sacrament of confession.

We’re told to be nice, and pray for high sounding platitudes in the intercessions…like world peace and an end to injustice. And high-sounding platitudes is exactly where Satan likes the discussion being kept. That clears the way for brain-dead Catholics to have junk poured into their minds…

Voris makes the point again about the widespread liturgical abuses that are accepted as “normal” in parishes all across the US (and even the world, I suppose). He begins his conclusion of this Vortex with this thought:

This is the real story, and it’s what those who understand it must make their life work of reversing – first through their own personal holiness, and secondly through their instruction to those who don’t know.

Now, both of those are very difficult! That “personal holiness” thing…yeah, well, we have to keep trying! And the second part is difficult, too, because some of those who don’t know simply don’t want to know. There are a few people who won’t speak to me any longer because of my efforts to tell them something they don’t want to know.

It’s time to knuckle down and stop lamenting how a majority of Catholics voted for Obama again, or how the pro-life vote failed again, or how another country legalized abortion, or how another TV show is promoting sodomy and adultery.

We know why.

The Church needs to re-discover Herself and that will only happen by God raising up saints…and that means you.

So…where does that leave us? Where do we go from here?

That question keeps coming up. I guess the answer is that we have to educate ourselves and our children, since our shepherds are not doing it. And how do we do that? Find the right books to read; listen to people who have demonstrated, one way or another, that they know the faith. (For myself, I have always leaned toward listening to the one who presents facts, rather than his own opinion, and who backs up his statements with references to Church documents, etc.)

The right books: well, there are lots of them. Since we’re in the “Year of Faith”, and the suggestion has already been made, you can start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the current edition; and you can compare it with older books like My Catholic Faith, or This Is The Faith, which tend to describe the tenets of the faith in stronger language we’re used to hearing these days.  That can be quite refreshing in itself! And it wouldn’t hurt to re-read the Vatican II documents with an eye to truly seeing what they say, instead of listening to misinterpretations of them.

Don’t forget, too, to get a premium subscription to ChurchMilitant.TV, where you can listen to hundreds of hours of instruction and discussion about the faith.  Or check out the CMTV “store”, where you can purchase DVDs of the shows available on CMTV.

And then there’s evangelization – of Catholics, first, perhaps!? I ran across a good book: Why Protestantism Can’t Be True by Devin Rose. It’s conversational as well as logical, and covers all the basic Protestant arguments against the faith. Read it yourself, and you will be fortified against some of those things your fallen-away Catholic friends and relatives are saying and believing. Looking for Christmas gifts for Protestantized and fallen-away Catholic friends and relatives? This is perfect!

Another thought is the series of apologetics booklets from San Juan Catholic Seminars, which includes booklets on responding to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, New-Agers, and atheists, as well as instruction on defending Marian doctrine and the Real Presence, as well as how to answer “tough moral questions” concerning abortion, contraception, and euthanasia. The booklets are short and concise.

Those are my thoughts. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vesting the Altar

Let me expound on the subject of altars once again! This is actually a re-post (at least in part) from the other blog I administer for the Society of St. Gregory the Great.

A Catholic church cannot be a church without an altar. This is where the Holy Sacrifice takes place. This is where the host is transubstantiated into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives as Christians, and it is at Mass where we see the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

What then should be the primary visual focal point in the sanctuary?  The altar!

Making the altar a dignified and awe-inspiring element of the sanctuary helps us to achieve a greater sense of reverence concerning the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

How should an altar be decorated? The answer, truly, is not at all. However, an altar may and should be “vested” just as the priest is vested appropriately for Mass. A traditional way of creating a “vestment” for the altar is the antependium or frontal.

For some very good commentary, photos, and explanations, see articles at The New Liturgical Movement blog here, here, here, and here.

Here are a few photos of antependia created by a non-professional:

At Our Lady of the Valley, in La Grande, Oregon:

Too bad we can't see (and use) the old high altar
that's hidden behind the "new" altar.

At St. Anthony's in North Powder, Oregon

Now, if we could just get rid of that gauzy drape on
the crucifix (which a friend has dubbed the "cruci-diaper")

The sanctuary in this little mission church is tiny. Still, it could actually
look like a sanctuary if we could replace the dining room furniture with
something more fitting. The captain's chair just doesn't make it, let alone
the end table with the doily-like cover!

By the way, the people rejected the above antependia, saying “It’s just not us.” And here I thought it was about Him! At any rate, they decided to go back to this type of arrangement:

Below are some further examples of inappropriate "vesting" of the altar.

In the first photo, we see the altar being used primarily as a backdrop for a nice floral arrangement. Which is more important: the altar or the flowers?! This treatment puts the altar in second place. 

This was a misguided attempt to create some sort of shrine for the feast of All Souls. It looks particularly incongruous with the reredoes.

Thankfully, the pastor of the parish was also appalled, and this type of thing is not seen there any longer!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Unnatural Law?" Project: Worth Supporting

Fr. John Hollowell continues to promote the “Unnatural Law?” project, which will produce a video to present the true teaching of the Church on homosexuality. The goal is to raise $70,000 by December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception). I wrote about it here.

As of this writing, they've reached 57% of the goal - around $40,000.

Fr. Hollowell believes in the project, and has put a lot of time and effort into finding ways to effectively communicate the Church’s teaching – not just the “what”, but more importantly the “why”. And he’s donating a substantial sum of money himself. Here’s his explanation of why he’s donating $3000:

Care to join the fun? Donate by clicking here:

I posted a video of an excellent homily on homosexual "marriage" by Fr. Hollowell, along with my transcription of the homily, here.

Also, be sure to check out Fr. Hollowell's blog, On This Rock

Below I've embedded another video of Fr. Hollowell presenting a half-hour talk on the homosexuality and related issues; it’s called “Catholicism, Sexuality, Homosexuality, Attractions, etc.” and bears the tag line, “If I don’t act on my attractions, will I explode?” Early in the presentation, he notes that the Church “has zero credibility with society because of Her stand on the issues of homosexuality and contraception” – and if you think about it, that’s true. People discount the Church because of the unpopular teachings, but they usually do so without even attempting to understand why the Church teaches what She does.

Vortex: The Pro-Life Problem

Here’s the Vortex from Monday, November 26. Excellent points again – for instance:

Catholics need to go back to the drawing board and realize that our first duty is save souls, not bodies – even the bodies of children. If souls are in a state of grace, then there would be no abortion. Remember, Satan doesn’t care about killing children. He gains nothing from the direct taking of that life.

(Full script below).

In his evangelizing work, St. Paul said of Our Blessed Lord, “In him we live and move and have our being”. He was actually quoting a Greek poet from 500 years earlier, but was able to expand on that thought and bring home its reality in relation to Christ.

Today, the pro-life movement is at a crossroads – especially the Catholic pro-life movement. So much attention – all of it well-intentioned – has been focused on changing laws, that the REAL work of Catholics has been sidelined, sort of.

We have a kind of bumper sticker mentality now; you know, “God is Pro-Life”. Spoken more accurately, He isn’t so much “pro-life” as He IS life. What St. Paul said.

From a spiritual point of view, God IS life. He is also Love which means there is an equality and sameness to life and love – authentic Life and authentic Love, that is.
Being pro-life from a political point of view is nearly meaningless. For goodness sakes, even an atheist can be pro-life and many are. But while they are right politically, they miss the point entirely, and so, unfortunately, do some Catholics in the pro-life movement.

Politics should be the secondary goal. You can’t change a culture by passing laws. Laws are a reflection of what the culture wants. Laws follow after the fact; they almost never lead the way.

That’s why in a few years same-sex marriage will be the law of the land. Enough people have been de-sensitized to the evil and immorality of homosexual sex, through the media largely, that its legal enshrinement is already a foregone conclusion.

Catholics – leaders and laity – need to concentrate more on what the faith commands.

That’s what formed Christendom in the first place; THEN the laws followed.

Too many compromises happen in the political world because politicians’ first and last concerns are usually their careers. Abortion is still present in part because of all the compromises on such things as rape, incest, and life of the mother.

But mostly because of the third rail issue of contraception. Too many Catholics in the
movement laid aside their faith – key and non-negotiable issues about their faith – in order to accomplish a political end…a well-intended end, mind you…but one that was destined to fail.

Crowing about incremental advances here and there in the states, or some particular funding program in some federal cases in this court or that, in the end amounts to nothing.

At the end of the day, Roe will remain protected and enshrined, and that, as they say, will be that.

Catholics need to go back to the drawing board and realize that our first duty is save souls, not bodies – even the bodies of children. If souls are in a state of grace, then there would be no abortion. Remember, Satan doesn’t care about killing children. He gains nothing from the direct taking of that life.

And while we can’t be certain, it seems impossible to us to think or even consider that the souls of aborted children would be damned. So think about this: Satan is willing to
forego those souls – to remove them from his grasp for eternity – in exchange for what?
To create murderers out of mothers and doctors and fathers, and THAT he does gain considerably from. He creates a world that grows coarse to life and love, and therefore
GOD, Who is the source and end of each.

The souls of those little ones are kind of a loss leader for the diabolical – something in his calculus he might be willing to take a pass on if he can create a world indifferent to God…[one] that has grown cold to life and love.

And this shows forth a perfect example of how, when the Church fails, evil advances.

There is always a correlation between the world and the Church because Our Blessed Lord established an intimacy between the two.

The world is the theater of redemption. It is where the fruits of the redemption are applied.

God so loved he world that He sent His only begotten Son. So it is the Church’s solemn duty, grace, and privilege to CONVERT the world.

But it is a sure mark of failure when Church leaders begin efforts to educate politicians, and not the flock. What else does God mean by the psalm, “Do not put your trust in princes”?  And again, “Despite the power of the horse, it cannot save.”

Catholics in America have grown up in a spirit of compromise. This has translated into efforts even in the pro-life movement. Too many have looked at a political and cultural goal, and compromised on the faith.

As long as contraception is acceptable to people who say they follow Christ, there will never be a rule of peace on earth. The mindset which allows the perversion of truth in this regard, will inevitably spill over into a perversion of truth in other areas – like life, religion, a correct understanding of liberty, objective morality.

The Church in the West has simply looked for the easy way to accomplish the political goal of ending abortion. Abortion isn’t the problem – the acceptance of error is…and the lack of concern for total Catholic truth.

There should have been mass conversion to the Catholic faith by well-meaning Protestants within the pro-life movement for all these years, if Catholics were paying attention to the faith in its FULLEST sense.

Yet many splendid leaders in the movement remain unconverted to the faith. Have any
Catholics ever sat down and talked with them about their souls?

No ecumenical effort with a religion that accepts theological compromise will ever be successful in the long run. It might score a political coup here or there, but the forces of darkness will just regroup and come back stronger, and the movement will be ill-prepared to cope with the stronger assault because it will have not dealt with its own internal struggle.

The Church did not convert the emperor, it converted the empire by converting the citizens.

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais

Nov 27, 2012 Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

In the middle of the night on July 18th, 1830, a young postulant in the Sisters of Charity in Paris was awakened by a small boy who told her that our Lady was waiting for her in the chapel. She arose and followed the boy, worried about waking the other sisters and the Mother Superior, but no one stirred.

The Chapel was completely lit by candlelight when they arrived. The boy led her to the tabernacle and knelt there. Then the young postulant heard the rustling of silk, as of a lady walking in a fine gown and a beautiful young Llady, radiant in heavenly light, appeared. The Lady sat on a chair in front of the side altar and young Sr. Catherine Laboure knelt with her hands held in the Lady’s hands on her lap. The Lady told her that she was the Immaculate Conception and that the young sister must be vigilant because France would experience another period of bloody violence against the Church. She said that the convent would be spared and that Catherine must remain faithful and vigilant.  

The Lady later showed Catherine an image of herself with radiant streams of light coming from her fingers. This light represented the abundant grace of God which no one asked for. Our Lady told Catherine to strike a medal with this image of Our Lady standing on the ancient serpent, crushing his head, with streams of light coming from her fingers. All those who wore this medal and asked for the grace would receive it. Our Lady faded away leaving Catherine alone in the chapel with the little boy who escorted her back to her room. Then he disappeared.

Within a week, Paris saw riots in the streets. The bloodshed of the revolution returned. Churches were sacked and profaned, priests and nuns were murdered without mercy. But this convent on the Rue de Bac was spared and the medal was made and distributed. It was called the medal of the Immaculate Conception. Very soon, this medal came to be called the Miraculous Medal because reports began to flood into the convent about physical cures, conversions and miracles from those who wore the medal.

The most famous conversion is that of Alphonse Ratisbonne, an Austrian Jew, an agnostic and businessman. In 1842, Alphonse was preparing to marry and decided to travel to Malta before the wedding. He never made it to Malta and instead wound up in Rome. He had vowed that he would never go to Rome due to his intense hatred of the Catholic Church.

His brother George had converted to Catholicism and became a priest. This only intensified Alphonse’s hatred for the Church. While in Rome he met a newly converted Catholic, Baron Bussieres. Ratisbonne and Bussieres got into a great argument over the Catholic Church and Bussiere somehow convinced “the Jew to wear the new medal to Mary from Paris, as a dare. He was even able to convince Alphonse to write down the words to the MEMORARE, and repeat the prayer. Ratisbonne accepted the challenge with outright mockery. He allowed the Baron’s daughter to put the medal around his neck” (Lord, Bob and Penny. The Many Faces of Mary, p. 58).

“Our Lady then put a dying man, Comte de la Ferronays, in the path of Bussiere. They met at a dinner party in Rome. Baron Bussiere discussed Ratisbonne with the Comte, who promised to pray the Memorare for him at the Church of St. Mary Major. The Comte de la Ferronays went to the Church, and prayed twenty Memorares for the conversion of the angry Jew. After having prayed, he returned home, and died the same day” (Lord, 58-59).

Ratisbonne wanted to leave. He went to Baron Bussiere’s home to thank him for his courtesy, which was his custom, and to return the medal to him. Bussiere, not wanting to lose Alphonse, asked him to accompany him to the Church of St. Andrea’s, where Bussiere was to make funeral arrangements for Comte de la Ferronays. The fact that the Comte had prayed for Ratisbonne made him feel obligated to join his friend (Lord, 59).

While Baron Bussiere made arrangements in the sacristy, Ratisbonne wandered about inside the church. He had a feeling he should leave. As he turned towards the front door, a huge black dog blocked his way. The animal was vicious, baring his fangs. Ratisbonne was frozen in his tracks. He couldn’t move. Suddenly the dog disappeared. Directly in his path, at a side chapel, a brilliant light glowed. Ratisbonne looked up to see Mary standing there, above the altar, in the pose of the Miraculous Medal, which he still wore around his neck. He looked up at her. Her face was peaceful, but her eyes bore deep into his soul. He could not stand the brilliance of the light. He had to look away from her enchanting face, her captivating eyes. He looked at her hands, which, according to his own words, “expressed all the secrets of the Divine Pity”. She never said a word, but he “understood all” (Lord, 59).

The vision lasted but a few minutes; the effects a lifetime. When his friend emerged from the sacristy, he found Ratisbonne on his knees, sobbing. He insisted on being baptized immediately. The story spread all over Rome. In a matter of months, Alphonse Ratisbonne was baptized, received First Holy Communion, and was Confirmed. He went on to become a priest, taking the name Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne. He joined his brother (George) in Jerusalem to form the Daughters of Zion, whose ministry was to evangelize among the Jews” (Lord, 59).

75 years later, a young Franciscan seminarian named Br. Maximilian Kolbe heard this story about Alphonse Ratisbonne and it inspired him to promote the wearing of the Miraculous Medal for the conversion of souls and as a sign of total consecration to Mary. He formed the “Militia Immaculata” “to win all souls for Christ under the patronage of Mary Immaculate” (Kalvelage, Marian Shrines of Italy. 6). In 1917, Fr. Kolbe celebrated his first Mass after ordination at "The Altar of the Apparition" at St. Andrea Delle Frate in Rome where Alphonse Ratisbonne had seen Our Lady and converted.

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