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Our Friends in Purgatory

Our Friends in Purgatory

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1030

The Church teaches us that at the moment of death, we immediately undergo our particular Judgement. After this, there are two options – Heaven or Hell. For those souls going to Heaven, there will be either immediate entry or else a period or purification prior to entry. The Catechism tells us –

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.. This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead..” (Catechism. para.1031-1032)

Purgatory, then, is not a punishment; rather, it is an act of great mercy by the Lord, Who cleanses these souls before they enter Heaven. And the Church specially dedicates the month of November each year to the memory of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminding us of our duty toward them in charity, that we might offer prayers and sacrifices on their behalf, so assisting them to Heaven.

The Holy Souls cannot help themselves – but we can help them, especially by having Masses offered for them, and by applying to them any Induglences we can gain. Whilst they are not able to help themselves, they are able to help us – and those souls we assist to Heaven will not forget us.

At the first appearance of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima, Lucia asked about two young girls who had died shortly beforehand. The first was about sixteen years old when she died, and Our Lady told Lucia this girl was already in Heaven. The second died when she was about twenty; Our Lady said this girl would “be in Purgatory until the end of the world”, according to Lucia. At first glance, this might seem harsh, but there are a couple of things we should remember, just to put this comment into context. First of all, this soul is already saved – she will enter Heaven at some point, for her salvation is assured. And that is a great blessing. Secondly, the Holy Souls are outwith time – time does not apply there in the way it does here, so it is difficult for us to comment with any certainty on the period of purgation which a particular soul will undergo.

What is most important, perhaps, is for us simply to realise that the Holy Souls need our assistance – that we can help them to reach Heaven sooner, by the ways already mentioned.

It is also important to remember that we should never ever presume that a particular soul is already in Heaven – if we do, the danger is that we will not pray for them. If they are in Purgatory, our prayers will assist them; if they are already in Heaven, our prayers will help other souls.

One final point to remember is that, God willing, we will one day undergo our own purgation – for we should never presume to be so pure in soul that we will enter Heaven immediately. And when that day comes for us, how we will thank God for those souls praying for us.

It is a good practice to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory; She is greatly concerned for them, as these words from the Diary of Saint Faustina attest –

“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her ‘the Star of the Sea’. She brings them refreshment.” (Diary, para.20)

May Our Blessed Lady, the Star of the Sea, pray for and assist the Holy Souls.

Our Friends The Saints

Our Friends The Saints

“The memory of the Saints leads us to raise our eyes to Heaven: not to forget the realities of the earth, but to face them with more courage and hope.”

– Pope Francis, Feast of All Saints – 1st November 2019

It is probable that most Catholics have at least one ‘favourite’ Saint. For whatever reason, a particular Saint appeals to us – possibly because of something they did, how they lived, what they are remembered for, or some other similar reason.

Personally, I have a small collection of favourites who have been there with me for a long time now – each one is dear to me for a particular reason, but the reasons are different for each of them.

First of all, there is Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw Our Lady at Lourdes. She was the first Saint I ever knew anything about, as I had an aunt who visited Lourdes on several occasions. There was a little picture of Bernadette in our home ever since my childhood and so it was inevitable she and I would become friends. Much later on, I had the pleasure of visiting Bernadette at her convent in Nevers, France, where I had the privilege to stay for several days with the Sisters on a couple of occasions. This allowed me the opportunity to spend time alone with Bernadette’s relics in the Chapel, and this is a memory I cherish. Bernadette appeals to me because of her simplicity and her devotion to the message of the Gospel, echoed in her experiences at the Grotto and later in her religious life at Nevers. She has also been a very good and trusted friend as the years have passed.

After Bernadette, come three children – brother and sister, Saint Jacinta Marto and Saint Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who would go on to become a Carmelite nun, before her death in 2005. These three children saw Our Lady at Fatima. I came to learn of them – and of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima – thanks to a bookstall at school many years ago, when I was about fifteen. I had never heard of Fatima until that point. I bought a copy of Lucia’s memoirs and was absolutely fascinated; not only by her account of the appearances, but by the lives of deep holiness which the children lived out, day after day. These children were greatly devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom they had the privilege to see. Their lives are proof that not only is the call to holiness truly universal, but it is also universally attainable – if only we will work at it day after day.

Next, there is Saint Faustina Kowalska, through whom we were given the Divine Mercy devotion. Out of the blue, Faustina made it her business to make her presence felt quite forcefully in my life, and she has remained in it ever since. She appeals to me because of her tenacity and her faithfulness to the mission entrusted to her, despite every obstacle that came in her path – and every one of which she overcame.

A Pope makes it onto my list – Saint John Paul II. He is the only Saint I have had the privilege to actually see whilst he was alive. He was deeply devoted to the Mother of God, and he was a Pope who placed a great emphasis on Fatima and it’s message, mentioning it often. He is also the Pope who brought the Divine Mercy devotion out of the shadows, placing it firmly in the light of the Church; he would later canonise St Faustina and give the Church the Feast of Divine Mercy. He was a truly good and holy man and I remember how sad I was that Saurday night when we lost him, as he had been with us for so very long. I did not doubt that he was a living Saint.

John Paul took his motto – ‘Totus Tuus’ (‘All Yours’) – from the writings of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote the ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’, and ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. Saint Louis is on my list also, needless to say. He is the great Marian scholar-Saint, living out the very thing he gives to us in his writings. I read his Treatise when I was about sixteen and it changed my life entirely, and continues to do so. Interestingly, Saint John Paul said much the same about the effect of this book on his own life – which is why he chose that particular motto.

A great favourite for many, many people is next on my list – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. This ‘little’ Saint achieved a huge amount of good for souls – not because of what she did, but because of how she did it; that is, with great love. Obedience and love achieve great things in the order of grace as well as in the order of nature, and Thérèse is proof of this. A sign of her universal popularity is the ubiquity of statues in her likeness, found in almost every Catholic Church. And that popularity persists, if the vast numbers of people who thronged to honour her Relics here in Scotland recently, is anything to go by.

Nearing the end of this brief list is another personal favourite, although he is much less well-known (in this part of the world, at least) compared to all the others – Saint John Macias. John was a Dominican lay brother in Peru, where he died in 1645. Greatly devoted to the Lord and to the Mother of God, this love was reflected in his gentleness and in his intense love for the poor. He spared no efforts in making sure those near his monastery were fed every single day and he treated them with deep, deep kindness and reverence, as though each one was the Lord. Not surprisingly, the miracle that led to his canonisation was not unlike a certain other miracle, mentioned in the Gospel, concerning the miraculous feeding of a great many people. I admire John’s simple and deep faith and his intense life of prayer, this being the foundation of all else that he did.

Last but not least there is a man on my list who is not yet a canonised Saint – but I hope this will change one day. However, his Cause for canonisation is presently before Rome and he has been declared ‘Venerable’. His name is Matt Talbot. Although often associated with alchololism and recovery from it, this is not what attracts me to Matt; rather, it is his hidden life of deep and intense prayer, which developed and deepened after his recovery. Matt, like the others on my list, proves that all people have the capacity for true sanctity, if only we would comply with the grace of God and exercise the will to work towards becoming holy. Matt did precisely this; and in researching his life story, I am in no doubt that he posessed true and very deep sanctity. I pray for his eventual canonisation.

So this is a brief run-down of some of my favourite Saints, along with my reasons for listing them.

But what about you who read my list – who are your personal favourites, and why?

 

New Marian Feast

New Marian Feast

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has today instituted a new Marian feast day – the optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto, to be celebrated on 10th December each year.

The text of the official promulgation of the new feast is given below and the official Notification is available on the Vatican website.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Prot. N. 404/19

DECREE

on the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto
to be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar

Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us.

This shrine recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, leading all those who visit it to consider “the fullness of time”, when God sent his Son, born of a woman, as well as to meditate both on the words of the Angel announcing the Good News and on the words of the Virgin in response to the divine call.  Overshadowed by the Spirit, the humble handmaid of the Lord so became the dwelling-place of divinity, the purist image of the holy Church.

Closely bound to the Apostolic See this shrine, praised by Popes and known throughout the world, has, over the years and no less than Nazareth in the Holy Land, been able to illustrate powerfully the evangelical virtues of the Holy Family.

In the Holy House, before the image of the Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church, Saints and Blesseds have responded to their vocation, the sick have invoked consolation in suffering, the people of God have begun to praise and plead with Mary using the Litany of Loreto, which is known throughout the world.  In a particular way all those who travel via aircraft have found in her their heavenly patron.

In light of this, Pope Francis has decreed, by his own authority, that the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on 10 December, the day on which the feast falls in Loreto, and celebrated every year.  This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.

Therefore the new memorial must appear in all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the relative texts are attached to this decree and their translations, approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.

Anything to the contrary nothwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 7 October 2019, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect

          + Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

 

The Daily Rosary

The Daily Rosary

“But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery .. it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer’. The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”

– St John Paul II, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’

Saint John Paul was greatly concerned that our communities as Christians should be founded and nourished by prayer, to such an extent that they might become “genuine schools of prayer”.

His reasons for this were fairly straight-forward.

It is easy to become knowledgeable about the Catholic Faith – anyone can pick up a book and learn what it is we believe as Catholics. Equally, it is just as easy to pick up any theological book and learn something about God. But knowledge is not the same as Faith. Knowledge is something we gather – it is information about a particular subject, whether the subject is God or anything else. But Faith is something quite different to this.

First and foremost, Faith is a gift, given freely to us by God. He desires that we know Him and so love Him. It is not something we get but something we receive.

Secondly, Faith is not about knowledge – it is about relationship. It is about a real person – Jesus Christ. It is about getting to know Him on a deep, personal and intimate level.

In other words, Faith is a living thing. It is like a little plant, which we need to cultivate carefully, tending the soil, adding nutrients, watering the plant, so that it might gradually grow and develop and bear good fruit for us.

This Faith is nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments and by prayer; these are the primary means by which we come to know the Lord, Who reveals Himself to us by these means. In the Word, we begin to learn Who the Lord is, what He tells us about Himself, and about the Father. The Catechism tells us –

“Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In Him He has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.65)

And in the Sacraments, the same Lord comes to us – through the particular graces of several of the Sacraments of the Church, and uniting Himself directly to us in the greatest Sacrament of all, Holy Communion, which the Church tells us is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (‘Lumen Gentium’, quoted in the Catechism, para.1324).

Prayer is the bridge that connects God and man, the human and the divine. Prayer is the opening of our hearts to God and to the action of His divine grace, and to His divine mercy. Prayer, which may seem like our approach to God, is actually our response to His approach to us.

Pope John Paul tells us that –

“Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon Her Heart, were always with Her, leading Her to reflect on the various moments of Her life at Her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which She recited uninterruptedly throughout Her earthly life.” (Rosarium, para.11)

The Holy Father then encourages us to imitate this contemplative quality of the Immaculate Heart of Mary –

“The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.” (Rosarium, para.12)

Explaining what he means by this, Pope John Paul goes on to say that –

“Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation.”

Our own contemplation, then, is also this same type of remembering – we are making present in our hearts all the works and actions and revelations of God, and in remembering them in this way, we are giving thanks to God for them. Applying this sense to the prayer of the Rosary, the Holy Father goes on to add this –

“Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from Her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover His secrets and to understand His message. This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that She teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as She offers us the incomparable example of Her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’.” (Rosarium, para.14)

If Faith is about knowing God, about developing a deep and meaningful relationship with Him, then the Holy Father has proposed to us a most excellent means of doing so – the prayer of the Rosary; there, with Mary, we remember the works of the Lord in our contemplation; we make them present in our hearts and learn from them, following Our Lady’s own example.

All of this, we do in union with Mary –

“If Jesus, the one Mediator, is the Way of our prayer, then Mary, His purest and most transparent reflection, shows us the Way. ‘Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the Holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in His mysteries’. At the wedding of Cana the Gospel clearly shows the power of Mary’s intercession as She makes known to Jesus the needs of others: ‘They have no wine’ (Jn 2:3).” (Rosarium, para.16)

And so, remembering Christ with Mary, we are then led a step further –

“The Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge, in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience. Its form is that of a prayerful and contemplative presentation, capable of forming Christians according to the heart of Christ.. Our Lady of the Rosary continues Her work of proclaiming Christ.” (Rosarium, para.17)

If the prayerful recitation of the holy Rosary can achieve all these things, then truly it is capable of forming us into those ‘genuine schools of prayer’ to which Pope John Paul referred.

Imagine, then, how powerful that prayer might be if prayed every single daily and if prayed in our local communities – our families and our Churches.

Throughout this month of October, the Church can consistently asked us to pray the holy Rosary – and many will have responded to this noble call. It is not a new call – for centuries, the Church has asked us to take up our beads and to pray, particularly for special intentions in the Church and in the world as they have arisen and as they have threatened the peace of the world.

At Lourdes, the appearances of the Blessed Virgin began with the recitation of the Rosary and continued with it, and even now, so many years later, there are constant Rosary processions through the Grotto.

And at Fatima, the Mother of God asked over and over again that we “pray the Rosary every day”.

Let us take up our beads and respond wholeheartedly to Her heavenly call.

 

A New Dogma?

A New Dogma?

“We are convinced that the Father awaits His Church to specifically and dogmatically honor Her coredemptive role with Jesus, for which He will respond with a historic new outpouring of His Holy Spirit.. Our Lord gave Peter the keys of the kingdom. We ask you, dear Holy Father, to use them now, in these dramatic times, and with your powerful word, in the fullness of your office as Successor of Peter, proclaim the great role that the Virgin Mary played in God’s plan of Redemption. Surely, it will release great graces for today!”

A number of Cardinals and Bishops have writen an Open Letter to our Holy Father, Pope Francis; in it, they ask him to consider formally pronouncing on the role of the Mother of God in the plan of salvation for humanity. The full text of the Letter is given below –

 

OPEN LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS FOR MARY

August 22, 2019  |  Queenship of Mary

Dear Holy Father:

As Catholic Christians, we write this letter to you out of concern for the peoples of the world. There is so much suffering. We see more coming. The world is out of balance politically, economically, morally, ecologically, and on the edge of world catastrophe. We support your heroic call for political social action, for dialogue between nations, cultures, and religions.

But, as you know, this will not be enough. Behind all these external events, a spiritual battle is taking place, more than ever, between good and evil, light and darkness, in the hearts of humanity. Here, the real battle must be fought. Humanity is in need of great conversion, and of help from the Lord, from his angels, and from his Mother.

As Christians, we believe that on the Cross, Jesus Christ, our divine Redeemer, has gained full victory over Satan. We also believe that in a special way, the Lord at Golgotha entrusted his beloved people to Mary, the Spiritual Mother of all humanity. As the “Woman clothed with the Sun,” clothed with the redeeming power of her Son, she stands in battle with the dragon, now more than ever before.

We need her, but she also needs us. If we honor Our Lady in the full greatness that our Lord has granted her, then she can fully exercise her maternal mediation on our behalf, and as at Cana, can intercede with her Son to do miracles in our times.

In the last two thousand years, the Church has recognized, in four dogmas, the special privileges the Father has granted Mary as the Mother of his divine Son. Yet, never has the Church solemnly recognized her human but crucial role in God’s plan of salvation, as the New Eve next to the New Adam, as the Spiritual Mother of all humanity. We are convinced that the Father awaits his Church to specifically and dogmatically honor her coredemptive role with Jesus, for which he will respond with a historic new outpouring of his Holy Spirit.

As you know, many saints of our time, including St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Maximilian Kolbe, together with over 8 million faithful, and more than 800 bishops and cardinals, have already petitioned the Holy See for this cause, since Cardinal Mercier began this movement in 1915. With our humble voices, we join them now, at this critical moment of human history.

Our Lord gave Peter the keys of the kingdom. We ask you, dear Holy Father, to use them now, in these dramatic times, and with your powerful word, in the fullness of your office as Successor of Peter, proclaim the great role that the Virgin Mary played in God’s plan of Redemption. Surely, it will release great graces for today!

In love, loyalty, and respect,

 

Apostle of the Two Hearts

Apostle of the Two Hearts

“You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary.”

– St John Eudes

(Statue depicting Saint John Eudes in the central nave of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome)

In her writings and memoirs, Sister Lucia of Fatima records that in the years following the ‘public’ appearances of Our Lady at Fatima, she received a number of further messages and revelations. Amongst these was one in 1932, during which the Lord Jesus told her that He wished the Church “to place devotion to this Immaculate Heart alongside devotion to My Sacred Heart”

This was not, in fact, a new call – as far back as the middle of the Seventeenth Century, one man had been making precisely the same request, with varied degrees of success. That man was Father John Eudes, a French Priest who would later be declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925; and since then, there have been calls to have Saint John Eudes declared a Doctor of the Church. Indeed, in 2017, a dossier compiled by the Eudists and supported by the Episcopal Conferences of seven different nations, was given to our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Father Eudes was initially a Priest of the Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate – the Oratorians– who were founded by Cardinal de Bérulle and influential in the French Schoolof spirituality. He preached numerous missions and tended to the victims of plague. Father Olier, founder of the Sulpicians, later called him “the prodigy of his age”. Father Eudes was very concerned at the need for spiritual improvement for Priests, because of which he founded a number of seminaries, where future Priests could be appropriately trained. He also founded a number of confraternities in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, receiving Papal recognition and blessing in the process.

As his work progressed, he saw a need to work with prostitutes and so in 1641, he founded a religious congregation called the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, receiving diocesan approval and, finally, Papal approval in 1666.

In 1643, Father Eudes left the Oratorians and established the Congregation of Jesus and Mary – not a religious order but a ‘society of apostolic life’– later to become known as the Eudists, whose principal works are giving missions and the training of Priests.

His spirituality was greatly influenced by the French school, by the writings of St Francis de Sales, and by the revelations given to St Gertrude and St Mechtilde by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This devotion to the Sacred Heart was, at that time, very much a private devotion; Father Eudes wanted it to become an established part of the Church as a whole. To this end, he wrote several Masses in honour of the Sacred Heart, and these were eventually accepted and became widely known. It was for this reason that proclaiming his heroic virtue in 1903 as part of the process leading to canonisation, Pope St Leo XIII called him the“author of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the holy Heart of Mary”.

At his beatification in 1908, Pope Pius X said –

“But his services to the Church received a vast increase when, burning with a singular love for the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, he was the first to think, not without some divine inspiration, of offering to Them liturgical worship.”

During the course of his life, Father Eudes wrote widely on devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and his view was always that these two devotions were essentially one, and should always be together. His book, ‘The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God’, was the first work to address this. Hias written works gained some prominence during his life and much more afterwards, leading Cardinal Vives to note –

“I was acquainted with the Doctors of the Order of Saint Francis; I was acquainted with Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, the mystical writers of my own country, Spain; but I was completely ignorant of the writings of Father Eudes. As a member of the Sacred Congregation of Rites it was my duty to study his life and his works, and I am in admiration. Blessed John Eudes must be ranked with the great lights of the Church. His spiritual doctrine is profound and of wonderful exactitude. He is one of the writers who has best propounded the doctrine of the Gospel.”

In 1930, an anonymous Oblate of Mary Immacualte wrote a short book entitled ‘Devotion to the Immculate Heart of Mary’, in which there is this –

“It was reserved for Saint John Eudes to be the apostle and chief organiser of this special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must remark here, however, that in this holy man’s mind, the two Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were ever inseparable. For almost thirty years before the revelations of Saint Margaret Mary took place, Saint John had been an apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By word and work, he had laboured to spread that devotion throughout the Church of France..

As, in the divine plan, Mary prepares the way for Jesus, so also in the Church of God, devotion to the Heart of Mary prepared the way for devotion to the Sacred Heart. In Saint John’s view, the ultimate object of all devotion and love is the adorable Heart of our Saviour, but, the best means of attaining that object is the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. Wherefore, he first set to work to preach and organise devotion to the Heart of Mary. And of that devotion he is the apostle par excellence, for when he began in 1641 it was scarcely known, but when he died (1680), it existed in a flourishing condition in most of the dioceses of France.”

The feast of Saint John Eudes is celebrated today, 19th August.

Saint John Eudes, apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, pray for us.