Prudence and Discernment

Prudence and Discernment

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights …  He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.”

– St John of the Cross 

I have read a number of messages recently on social media where the poster is sharing information from alleged locutions, visions and revelations – in all of these cases, the supposed events have not been approved by the Church, and in some of the cases, they have been condemned by the Church. Why, then, would a Catholic, share or promote such things?

The danger with apparently heavenly revelations is that they appeal directly to our human senses – and our human senses are very easily fooled, which can result in us being led astray in one way or another.

Saint John of the Cross writes –

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights . . . And to the sense of smell, fragrant odors; and he puts sweetness in one’s mouth, and delight in the sense of touch. He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.” (‘Ascent Of Mount Carnel’, 133)

How often do we do something on the basis of emotion, only to regret it later on!

Those who promote such things are, in most cases, free of malice or evil intent – but they may be subject to deceipt regardless of that. It may be that they have read a particular ‘message’ and are moved by it’s content, which seems good on the face of things; however, a broader reading of other ‘messages’ from the same source may reveal that this is not the case.

Such was the case in one post I read a few days ago – someone posted a ‘message’ which in itself seemed innocuous; others from the same source, unfortunately, claimed the Blessed Virgin had warned the alleged ‘seer’ that the Holy Father was in opposition to the Faith and would shortly install the Antichrist. Now, surely, any Catholic with even a little sense of discernment would go and check what the Church has said about such a ‘seer’ before promoting them further? Surely it would occur to them that perhaps what seems to be heavenly may in fact be the product of a deceived or deluded mind, or the end result of spiritual blindness and pride?

To be abundantly clear on this one point – in any authentic heavenly revelation, the Blessed Virgin will never ever set the faithful in opposition to the Church of Her Son nor to His shepherd, the Holy Father. You have the guarantee of Christ Himself on this – in matters of faith and morals the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, cannot err. Trust the Church. Trust the Holy Father.

In another case at the moment, many are promoting messages from an alleged ‘seer’ who has now been condemned by more than one Bishop. These Bishops have noted that a number of the general claims made by this person are simply not, in fact, true; also, that the content of the ‘messages’ is not in accord with authentic Catholic thought and teaching. And yet despite this, the promotion goes on. Those most closely involved in the promotion wrote all sorts of reasons why the judgement of these Bishops should be ignored – and yet, for any Catholic in good standing, it should be enough that a Bishop, the authority who is competent to judge, has spoken negatively. In this case, nothing more is needed. And those who seek to seduce the faithful into ignoring those judgements are wolves in sheeps clothing who will surely lead others astray.

For those tempted to promote alleged visionaries which have not received the approval of the Church, be critical and use your discernment and prudence in the first instance – check what (if anything) the local Bishop has said in their regard, and check not just one message, but all of them before promoting them. And if condemned already – do not promote them any further. You place not only yourself in spiritual danger, but also those who will later read what you have promoted or forwarded. And if you are not sure either way – then do nothing further.

Anything that is authentically from God will succeed, no matter what.

It may be worth noting here that even at the hallowed Grotto of Lourdes, the Deceiver was busy trying to fool the faithful and by means of this, to destroy the credibility of the authentic appearances of the Mother of God which had been taking place there. I have written about this previously –

‘From the start of time, God had warned Satan that there would forever be enmity between him and the Woman. Lourdes was to be no exception to this rule.

The Satanic manifestation had begun during the fourth Apparition, when Bernadette had heard the cacophony of dark voices rising from the waters of the river, until silenced by the glance from the Virgin.

Now, toward, the end of the Visions, he would once more commence his assault. A young lady of Lourdes named Honorine, had been at the Grotto one day when she heard voices coming from within the empty Grotto – she said these voices produced a strange effect on her senses. This was repeated the next day, when Honorine again heard sounds – this time, savage howls and sounds like wild beasts in combat. The girl was terrified, and did not return to Massabieille for a number of weeks. The People of Lourdes said she was simply hysterical.

At the same time, a young man from Lourdes was passing the Grotto one day on his way to work before dawn. He crossed himself as he passed the rock, in honour of She who had been present there. Instantly, strange globes of light surrounded him and he felt unable to move. Terrified, he made the Sign of the Cross once more – as he did so, each of the globes of light exploded loudly around him and he was able to leave the place. As this was occurring, he could hear from within the Grotto, maniacal laughter and blasphemies.

Jean Baptiste Estrade witnessed some of the assaults of the father of lies. A lady from the Rue des Bagneres in Lourdes, named Josephine, was experiencing apparitions in the niche – this lasted for two days. Estrade watched what was happening, but said that while Bernadette was in ecstasy, he felt “transported” – with Josephine, he merely felt “surprised”.

And whereas Bernadette during her ecstasy was “transfigured”, Josephine was simply beautiful. The girl in question related to Estrade that she had indeed seen strange figures within the niche, but that she had felt suspicious of them since they appeared to her to be evil in nature, not Heavenly.

One day a young boy named Alex returned to his home in Lourdes screaming and shouting, but so paralysed with fear that he could not tell his poor mother what was the matter. After several days, he calmed down sufficiently to relate the cause of his terror –

“When I left the house I went to walk with some other children by the side of Massabieille. When I reached the Grotto I prayed for a moment. Then, while waiting for my companions, I went up to the rock. Turning toward the hollow of the rock, I saw coming towards me a beautiful lady. This lady concealed her hands and the lower part of her body in an ashen coloured cloud, like a storm cloud. She fixed on me here great black eyes and seemed to wish to seize me. I thought at once that it was the devil and I fled”.

Many other similar events occurred around this time.’

This should be a clear warning to every one of us – not everything that seems to come from Heaven, actually does so.

In some cases, our spiritual pride produces what we would like to be true; for other cases, the mind is being deluded or deceived in one way or another; and in certain cases, it is the Deceiver hard at work for reasons known only to him.

All of us need to listen very carefully to the Church and to the voice of her shepherds, the Bishops – they alone can judge authoritatively, and our viewpoint in this area never supercedes theirs.

The obedience of any alleged seer is one of the first indicators of the true source of any seemingly heavenly manifestation – we should immediately shun any who are not entirely obedient.

And for ourselves as observers, placing ourselves outwith the authority and judgement of the Church and her Bishops is generally a very clear sign that such an event is not Heavenly, and that our response is taking us along the wrong path.

The Church has very careful and comprehensive ways of judging the authenticity of any supposed heavenly revelation, which she has used consistently over the centuries and which are both tried and tested. It would be very surprising – and quite revealing – if any Catholic should seriously imagine that their personal judgement in such a matter is better than that of the Church.

May God grant all of us the grace and the light to remain obedient and docile to the voice of the Church, and to submit ourselves always and entirely to her, that we might never be led astray by ourselves, by others or by the Tempter.

Mary Our Queen

Mary Our Queen

“Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth by grace as Jesus is King by nature and by conquest.. So we may call Her, as the saints do, Queen of our hearts.”

– St Louis de Montfort, ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’

The golden crown which adorns the statue of Our Lady at Fatima

The notion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as ‘Queen’ is an ancient one. It dates back at least as far as the fourth century, when Saint Ephrem referred to Mary as both ‘Lady’ and ‘Queen’; however, a text from two centuries earlier, and attributed to Origen, calls Her ‘Domina’ or ‘Lady’. And from the Sixth Century onward, there are numerous references to Mary as ‘Queen’ in a variety of hymns and salutations. Much more recently, the Litany of Loreto, in use since at least 1558, has an entire section comprised of thirteen invocations addressing the Blessed Virgin as Queen.

It has also been the practice of a great many of the Saints to refer to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin.

Very prominent amongst these is the seminal figure of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. A prolific writer on all things Marian, his great works include ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’, ‘The Secret Of Mary’ and ‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’. 

In ‘The Secret Of Mary’ [SM], St Louis proposed that the Mother of God is the perfect way to go to Christ, since She is the way He chose to come to us; he then goes on to lay out the reasons for his proposition and the benefits of embracing what he suggests to us. In this book, he refers to Mary as our ‘Sovereign Queen’ (SM 52) and counsel us –

“Let us pray, then, to our dear Mother and Queen that having accepted our poor present, she may purify it, sanctify it, beautify it, and so make it worthy of God.” (SM 37)

The books contains his ‘Prayer To Jesus’, in which he refers to our “noble Queen” (SM 66); and it also has his ‘Prayer To Mary’, in which there are these lines –

“Hail, Mary, most beloved daughter of the eternal Father; hail, Mary, most admirable mother of the Son; hail, Mary, most faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit; hail, Mary, Mother most dear, Lady most loveable, Queen most powerful! Hail, Mary, my joy, my glory, my heart and soul.” (SM 68)

In his most famous work, Treatise On The True Devotion, Saint Louis lays out a detailed form of Marian devotion which consists of giving absolutely everything – both temporal and spiritual – to the Mother of God, that She might then perfect it and present it to Her Son. The devotion culminates in a Consecration which addresses the Mother of God with these words – 

“Hail, O Queen of Heaven and Earth, to whose empire is subject everything that is under God!” (TD 274)

He tells us very explicitly that “God has made Her Queen of heaven and earth” (TD28) and goes on to elaborate on this, saying “Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth by grace as Jesus is King by nature and by conquest” (TD 38). 

Writing about the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the great Marian Year of 1954, celebrating the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII wrote his Encyclical; ‘Ad Caeli Reginam’ (‘Queen Of Heaven’), in which he established the feast of the Queenship of Mary. In the Encyclical, he wrote –

“..the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of Her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed Her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. Let all Christians, therefore, glory in being subjects of the Virgin Mother of God, who, while wielding royal power, is on fire with a mother’s love..” 

At that time, and in the years since then, it has been reasonably common to see images of the Blessed Virgin being ‘crowned’. Indeed in this very Encyclical, Pope Pius reminded his readers of one such crowning –

“..It is particularly fitting to call to mind the radio message which We addressed to the people of Portugal, when the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary which is venerated at Fatima was being crowned with a golden diadem.. We Ourselves called this the heralding of the ‘sovereignty’ of Mary.”

Similar crownings were seen during the pontificates of St Paul VI, St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

So now that we know a little about the history of calling Mary our Queen, what relevance does this have for us today?

Speaking at a General Audience on 23 July 1997, Pope John Paul II gave us the reason –

“Popular devotion invokes Mary as Queen. The Council, after recalling the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in “‘body and soul into heavenly glory’”, explains that She was ‘exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that She might be the more fully conformed to Her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death’ (Lumen Gentium, n. 59). In fact, starting from the fifth century, almost in the same period in which the Council of Ephesus proclaims Her ‘Mother of God’, the title of Queen begins to be attributed to Her. With this further recognition of Her sublime dignity, the Christian people want to place Her above all creatures, exalting Her role and importance in the life of every person and of the whole world.”

The Holy Father went on to add this –

“In looking at the analogy between Christ’s Ascension and Mary’s Assumption, we can conclude that Mary, in dependence on Christ, is the Queen who possesses and exercises over the universe a sovereignty granted to Her by Her Son. The title of Queen does not of course replace that of Mother: Her queenship remains a corollary of Her particular maternal mission and simply expresses the power conferred on Her to carry out that mission.. Therefore Christians look with trust to Mary Queen and this not only does not diminish but indeed exalts their filial abandonment to her, who is mother in the order of grace.”

And so the various Holy Fathers and the Saints mentioned here agree that we venerate the Blessed Virgin as Queen for two broad reasons.

The statue of Our Lady before which the Scottish Bishops and people offered their Act of Consecration in September 2017 at Carfin Grotto

The first is because it is the express will of God, Who has so exalted Her in this way, that we do so; He has placed Her above all creation as Sovereign in the order of grace and He has given Her the rights and powers of Queen of Heaven and Earth.

The second reason is that by venerating the Blessed Virgin as our Queen, we explicitly place ourselves under Her dominion as Her subjects. We do this for all the reasons given by Saint Louis de Montfort and because, as Saint John Paul notes, it expresses our complete abandonment to Her in all things. To recognise ourselves as Her subjects gives Her not only rights over us, but responsibilities, too – and in particular, the responsibility to help us to reach Heaven safely.

The Schoenstatt family of Priests, nuns and laity have a beautiful tradition – every year, the image of the Blessed Virgin is solemnly crowned as a sign of Her reign over them. And we have seen the numerous examples of the Holy Fathers throughout the years also crowning images of the Mother of God. Similarly, various nations and their Conferences of Bishops – including Scotland (cf. A Nation Acclaims It’s Queen), just a couple of years ago – have explicitly and solemnly consecrated their nations to the Blessed Virgin. 

Perhaps the lovely feast of Our Lady, Mother and Queen, might act as an impetus for us to set up in our homes a blessed image of the Mother of God and to solemnly crown Her there as Queen and Mother of the Family and of our lives.

 

“Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland. We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.”

– the Catholic Bishops of Scotland, September 2017

 

A Nation Given To Mary

A Nation Given To Mary

“Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them.”

– Saint Jacinta of Fatima

Three years ago, we celebrated the Centenary Year of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, where She had shown Herself on six occasions to three young children. Her purpose was to call us back to the message of the Gospel through sorrow for our sins, a life of prayer and the Sacraments, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way of achieving this.

Two of the three seers of Fatima, brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had been declared Saints by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the centenary day of the first apparition. Speaking by video the pilgrims in Fatima on the centenary of the final apparition, the Holy Father had said –

“Never be afraid, God is infinitely greater than all of our problems. He loves us very much. Go forward in your journey without losing sight of the Mother; like a child who feels safe when close to his mother, we too are safe when close to Our Lady.. Never put the Rosary aside, but continue to recite it as She asked”.

The faithful join the Bishops in Consecrating Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Shortly after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin, little Jacinta had said – “Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them”. Many would take these words to heart and would place great confidence in them. And so it was perhaps not surprising that in that Centenary Year, a great focus was placed on Our Lady of Fatima and Her Immaculate Heart – and various events took place in response to the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.

One such event took place here in Scotland, where the people and the Bishops gathered together at our national Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto; there, under pouring rain, we consecrated ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The date was 3 September 2017.

The day of Consecration had been preceded by various other events across the years, and which had contributed to the events which would take place at Carfin that day.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII had sent his legate, Cardinal Masalla, to Fatima in Portugal, where he was to crown the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Speaking about the coronation, the Pope had said –

“The faithful Virgin never disappointed the trust put on Her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world.”

Here, then, the reasons for such a coronation were made very clear.

Returning to 2017, Cardinal Nichols had presided over a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on 18th February that year, where he solemnly crowned the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In the course of the ceremony he re-consecrated the nations of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. England had long since been dedicated to the Mother of God, because of which the nation has historically been called ‘the Dowry of Mary’. The Cardinal had previously expressed his thoughts on all this –

“Devotion to Mary is not an optional ‘add-on’ to Catholic belief, but an expression of what is at the heart of our faith. To draw close to Mary is to draw close to Jesus. As the earliest Christian witnesses often taught, Mary was open to receiving Jesus in Her mind and in Her Heart before She gave birth to Him in her flesh. For this reason, She is the first of all the disciples of the Lord as She is the most faithful of all the Lord’s followers. In Her maternal love of us, She continues to assist us in our following of Him; a consecration to Her Immaculate Heart gives expression to this in a simple way.”

Cardinal Nichol’s consecration was a renewal of a similar consecration in 1948, undertaken by Cardinal Griffon.

Ireland also undertook a similar national Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, performed by Cardinal Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15th August, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

On 20 May 2017, Bishop Toal had consecrated the Diocese of Motherwell, Scotland, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a Mass in the Cathedral, which was exceptionally well-attended. In his homily, Bishop Toal had spoken very beautifully on the message of Fatima, noting that it centres on conversion, prayer, reparation and, in short, ‘a change of heart’. This is what the Blessed Virgin calls us to.

Bishop Toal spoke about his own experiences of visiting the shrine at Fatima, where there is a strong sense of penance and reparation. He also spoke about the newest Saints of the Church, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who had been canonised the previous week. He said these two children remind us of the very special place which children occupy in life generally and in the Church specifically – adding that it is to children that we must hand on the fullness, beauty and sanctity of our Faith. At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Toal made the solemn Act of Consecration of the Diocese.

In June of that year, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley had announced the intention of the Bishops to undertake the Act of Consecration on ‘National Pilgrimage Day’ at Carfin. He had also announced a period of forty days of preparation prior to that day, inviting the faithful to join him spiritually throughout those days.

Two days beforehand the Scottish Parliament had announced that it would include itself, by means of ‘a motion of recognition’, in the collegial Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Bishops of Scotland, which the Bishops were about to undertake. The Parliament issued an announcement to that effect –

“That the Parliament recognises that Scotland’s Catholic bishops will consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3 September 2017; understands that the Bishops will pray for Scotland at the Marian Shrine at the Carfin Grotto, near Motherwell, asking that Scotland be energised with a renewed desire to seek the truth, and understands that at the same time they will pray for all parliamentarians and government, so that they will play their part in building a true civilisation of love and strive to create a place where all people are valued, a place where poor, lonely and marginalised people are not forgotten, and a place where people are free to practise their faith.”

For a very secularised nation, and one with a noted anti-Catholic bias in many respects, this was really something. But it was also extraordinary for another – and far greater – reason. By means of this self-inclusion of the Scottish Parliament, the two strands of Scottish life and identity, the Church and the State, had come together in unity for an explicit purpose – and a spiritual one at that.

The day before the Consecration at Carfin, a Vigil was held as final preparation; this consisted of Adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the holy Rosary was prayed every hour, and it concluded with Benediction.

On the day of Consecration, all of Scotland had truly come together.

Parliament – representing the State – had given notice of it’s alignment with what was to take place; the entire Scottish Hierarchy were present and took part; many Religious had come to the Grotto to take part; and the faithful were greatly represented by the thousands of laity who had travelled to the Grotto from all over Scotland and beyond.

And so, the Act of Consecration was truly collegial – and national – in every possible sense of those words.

The Sacrifice of the Mass was offered by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and the Scottish Bishops, together with a large group of Priests and Deacons from the various Dioceses of Scotland.

In his homily, Bishop Brian McGee of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, spoke about the rain and quipped that it had been much the same on 13th October 1917, when the great Miracle of the Sun took place at Fatima. On that day, of course, the rain stopped; on our day of Consecration, the Lady of the Rosary gave us an opportunity to offer something up for the acceptance of the Consecration.

Bishop McGee also spoke about the children of Fatima, who constantly said ‘yes’ to the invitation of the Lady and so became ever more united to the will of God for them; in this, they echoed the life of the Blessed Virgin, who so perfectly and constantly said ‘yes’ to God. The Bishop invited those present to make this same commitment, growing in holiness by our correspondence to the will of God for us in our own lives.

At the Conclusion of the Mass, the solemn Act of Consecration was read aloud by all present, led by Archbishop Tartaglia. He had noted that the original intention was that he alone would read the Act, but he felt it more appropriate that all present should take part vocally.

Hearing the Bishops and the people of Scotland consecrating themselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a great and swelling array of voices rising up from the Grotto like incense, was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever heard and I was deeply moved to be there and to a part of it all.

I had no doubt then, as I have no doubt now, that all of Heaven was listening intently, too; and I prayed that this Consecration would be found pleasing and acceptable by God.

Archbishop Tartaglia

At its conclusion, Archbishop Tartaglia noted how moved he, too, had felt, and how historic this moment had been; he spoke of his pride at the people of Scotland coming out to honour the Blessed Virgin, and he added that the Bishops and Priests of Scotland love the people of this nation very much. It was deeply heartening to see so many of the Priests of Scotland coming together in a public show of devotion to the Mother of God.

More than anything, it was wonderful to see so many thousands of ordinary people who braved the typical Scottish rain that day to pay homage to the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.

At the time, I had written that I was certain Our Blessed Lady had listened to the Act of Consecration offered to Her, that She accepted it, and that great graces would flow as a result of our offering ourselves and our Nation to Her. Three years later, I remain completely convinced of that.

 

Text of the Act of Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland.

We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.

We consecrate Scotland to You; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To You we give our minds and hearts, our bodies and souls. We willingly place at Your service our homes and families, our parishes and schools. We desire that everything that is within us and around us, amuy belong to You, O Mary.

That this Consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation – to be faithful witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We pledge ourselves to foster a true love of the Mass, and devotion to the Real Presence of Your Son in the Blessed Sacrament. We pledge ourselves to keep the Commandments of God and His holy Church. We undertake to promote in our homes and parishes a virtuous life. We pledge ourselves to recite ether Rosary more frequently, and to make reparation for the coldness and indifference of so many human hearts.

Finally, we promise, O glorious Mother of God, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of Your blessed name, in order to assure, through the sovereignty of Your Immaculate Heart, the coming of the Kingdom of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in our hearts and in our country of Scotland.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

 

The Homeland Above

The Homeland Above

“With God, nothing is lost! In Mary, the goal has been reached and we have before our eyes the reasons why we journey: not to gain the things here below, which are fleeting, but the homeland above, which is for ever.”

– Pope Francis

With these words issued today, our Holy Father Pope Francis reminded us of why we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It is a sign of the hope we all profess as Catholics – that one day, God willing, we will share in the joys of Heaven forever, in the presence of God, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints and Angels, and all those who have made the same journey before us. The Assumption is a foretaste of what we hope to experience ourselves.

Defining the Dogma of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady in his Apostolic Constitution ‘Munificentissimus Deus’, Pope Pius XII touched on this –

“That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor..Pius IX..solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God’s Immaculate Conception. These two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by Her Immaculate Conception, and as a result She was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and She did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of Her body.”

And so that hope which all of us have, is fulfilled in the person of the Mother of the Lord, in whom is brough to completion the great grace granted to Her by God in Her Immaculate Conception, as the Pope noted.

So often, we become focussed so intently on the present life that it is tempting to forget there is still a world – a life – to come. But as the Saints remind us, this life is the vessel, but not the port – it is the journey, but not the destination.

Today, let us look to Mary, taken to Heaven body and soul, and let us think of the life to come; and let us renew our hope that one day, by the grace of God, we might share in it.

Our Lady’s Martyr

Our Lady’s Martyr

“If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.”

– St Maximilian Kolbe

Some Saints of the Church seem to really stand out from the crowd – the crowd of normal and everyday humanity, but also the ‘crowd’ of the blessed in Heaven. Maximilian Kolbe is such a Saint and he occupies a notable place in the history of the Twentieth Century. His death is something of a point of reference for that age, and it is also a contradiction to that era and to the terrible events which came to characterise it. His story is now very well-known but it bears repeating, even if in a brief and simple form here.

It is interesting to note, too, that three of the greatest Saints of the Twentieth Century all came from Poland – Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II, and Maximilian Kolbe.

He was not always called Maximilian – at birth and throughout his earlier years, his name was Raymond (‘Rajmund’ in Polish). He was the son of a weaver and a midwife, one of five sons. Even in childhood he was devoted to the Mother of God and he told the story of something which happened when he was 12, an event which was to become a foundation for all that would follow in his later life. Here is how he himself described it –

“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then She came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

A year later, Rajmund and one of his brothers joined the Conventual Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Three years alter, he was permitted to enter the noviciate and he received his new religious name – Maximilian. He made his final vows as a Franciscan in 1914. By that time, he was already in Rome studying for the doctorate in philosophy which he gained the following year. He went on to earn a doctorate in theology, also.

More importantly for our story here, however, in something which took place in 1915. Along with a few friends, Maximilian formed a group which they called the ‘Militia Immaculatae’ – the Knights (or Army) of the Immaculate. The aim of this group was to encourage consecration to Mary Immaculate. Part of the inspiration for this were events Maximilian had witnessed in Rome – demonstrations organised by Freemasons where they raised the ‘black standard’ showing Saint Michael being trampled by Lucifer, while giving out little pamphlets attacking the Holy Father. Part of the spiritual goal of the new Militia Immaculatae, then, was the conversion of sinners – and especially Freemasons. In fact, this was such an important goal to the young Friar that he amended the prayer given on the Miraculous Medal, so that it read –

‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee – and for all those who do not have recourse to Thee, especially the Freemasons, and all those recommended to Thee.’

Maximilian had a great devotion to the Miraculous Medal, named in honour of the Immaculate Conception, and he believed conmpletely in the power of the Woman depicted upon it, distributing all of God’s graces as She chooses. He would give away thousands of these and would say –

“Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him…and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he might have recourse to Her in all difficulties and temptations .. This is truly our heavenly weapon, a bullet with which a faithful soldier hits the enemy, i.e. evil, and thus rescues souls.”

St Maximilian Kolbe

He returned to Poland after ordination to the Priesthood and was assigned a teaching role in the seminary at Krakow. However, his health was already deteriorating because of the tuberculosis from which he was suffering and so his teaching role was dotted with long absences. At it’s completion in 1922, he began publication of a new magazine which he called ‘Knight of the Immaculate’, having taken inspiration from the similar French magazine, the ‘Sacred Heart Messenger’. Over the next few years, his publishing operation would grow and it’s spread would reach far and wide. He also travelled to the Far East, where he founded monasteries and began work on localised versions of his magazine, before returning to Poland and starting work on a new radio station.

By this point, all the pieces were in place for what would be the outstanding event of his life. His work had been entirely dedicated to the Immaculate Mother of God and he was using every means at his disposal to bring souls to Her, so that She might lead them to Her Son. He even founded a ‘City of the Immaculate’, called Niepokalanow. He knew perfectly well that the Blessed Virgin is the one most able to lift souls to the heights of sanctity and to bring them closest to Her Divine Son, and his part in all this was to lead those should to Her.

Through the printed media, through radio, by travelling – everything was for Her. He had already given everything – but soon, he would be asked to complete the sacrifice.

The Second World War was underway and Maximilian had remained at the monastery, using it as a hospital to treat the sick and wounded; he also sheltered many refugees including many Jewish people, whose lives were in terrible danger because of the atrocities of the Nazi regime. It was perhaps not surprising that in February 1941, the Nazis closed the monastery and arrested Maximilian and his confreres, sending them first to a local prison before having them transferred to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he would spend the remaining two and a half months of his life.

In the camp, he continued his priestly role – and particularly by hearing the confessions of the prisoners, many of who would shortly face death one way or another. It is also said that he made Rosaries for the prisoners, using bread dough on pieces of string.

Visiting Auschwitz, Pope Francis prays in the cell where St Maximilian Kolbe died.

Toward the end of July, there had been a successful escape from the camp; in response to this, the deputy camp commander chose ten other prisoners who would be sent to the bunker and left there to starve to death. Amongst the ten was a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek, a sergeant in the Polish army who had been caught and sent to Auschwitz the previous October. Hearing his name called out, Gajowniczek broke down, calling out the names of his family, whom he feared he would never see again. Watching and listening, Maximilian instantly stepped forward and spoke directly the deputy camp commander – 

“I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children”.

Although astonished, the switch was permitted and Gajowniczek stepped back. The chosen ten were taken away.

Staff alter reported that in that bunker, Maximilian remained serene, leading his companions in prayer and encouraging them to trust in God and the Blessed Virgin. After two weeks starvation, only Maximilian remained alive and so the gfirard injected him with carbolic acid, and this ended his life. The date was 14 August 1941. He was cremated the following day – the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Maximilian Kolbe was raised to the honours of the Altar and declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II, a fellow Pole, on 10 October 1982 – at the same time, he was unofficially declared a ‘Martyr of Charity’ – having given his life freely, as an actor charity. He had already been declared a ‘Confessor’ when beatified by Pope Paul VI eleven years earlier.

Maximilian composed a beautiful prayer of consecration to Mary Immaculate, and it is reproduced here –

O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to You.

I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at Your feet, humbly imploring You to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to Yourself as Your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases You.

If it pleases You, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of You: “She will crush your head,” and “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in Your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing Your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For wherever You enter, You obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through Your hands that all graces come to us from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise You, O Sacred Virgin.

R. Give me strength against Your enemies.

Amen.

 

A False Devotion

A False Devotion

For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort.

In his great work, ‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort takes time to describe the signs of that devotion which can properly be called ‘true’.

To begin with, St Louis tells us that “I must now state in what this devotion consists. This I will do, with God’s help, when I have laid down certain fundamental truths, which will throw light on this great and solid devotion which I desire to disclose” (TD 60). He then expounds on five articles, describing his thoughts on each of them. The five articles are that Jesus Christ is the ultimate end of devotion to Our Lady; we belong to Jesus Christ and to Mary as their slaves; we must empty ourselves of what is evil in us; we need a mediator with our Mediator, Jesus Christ; and it is very difficult for us to preserve the graces and treasures received from God.

After this, our Saint tells us that it is crucial that we are able to recognise false devotion to the Blessed Virgin so that we can avoid it; and to be able to recognise true devotion, so that we can embrace it. He adds that it is equally important that we know which practices are the most pleasing to the Blessed Virgin, the most perfect, the most glorious for God and the most sanctifying for us. Saint Louis then moves on to describe seven characteristics of false devotees of Our Lady and of false devotions. He gives these as being critical; scrupulous; external; presumptuous; inconstant; hypocritical; and self-interested. As before, he adds much detail to each of these categories to explain his thinking.

Concluding his thinking in this area, he explains the characteristics of a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin – he describes it as being interior; tender; holy; constant; and disinterested.

For all who think themselves to be devoted the Mother of God, or who feel drawn to practice that True Devotion described by Saint Louis, it is important to think critically about the nature and purpose of our devotion, comparing our intentions and resolutions objectively to the descriptions offered by the great Knight of the Blessed Virgin, whose writings have been so lauded by the Church and by so many of the Popes.

In this present time, this is perhaps especially pertinent.

The reason I say this is that I see some souls who profess to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin and to practice the devotion of our Saint – and yet who, at the very same time, place themselves in direct opposition to the Holy Father and to the Church. Such souls are either deluding themselves or being deluded. I say this not as a judgement upon such souls but as an observation which I am noting increasingly often these days.

One of the most common expressions of this seems to be those who profess to be devoted to the Mother of God under the title of ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ – and who, at the same time, state with no evidence and with no sense of critical thinking, that the Church, in the persons of the last few Popes, has deceived and lied to the faithful, has had an ‘imposter’ nun squirrelled away in a convent over several decades, occasionally appearing to give false statements which are designed to lead the faithful astray and in this way, to perpetuate the lies of the Church hierarchy. In my experience, such souls are not at all open to discussion – and so making any attempt at this is entirely fruitless – and do not recognise that their views can only exist if certain other conditions are met. In the case of Sister Lucia, they presuppose that the ‘real’ nun is where – dead? Silenced in some other way? And for the lie to hold, it is necessary that the upper hierarchy of the Church has put out a lie which they have maintained over many, many years. The evidence to the contrary – the repeated statements of Sr Lucia, the documents and statements of the Church and of the various Holy Fathers – mean nothing and are simply discarded and excluded from their critical thinking and from any sense of objective judgement.

A second example concerns the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima, revealed by the Blessed Virgin to the three seers in July 1917. Notwithstanding the very clear and consistent documents of the Church and, in particular, the document released in 2000 which revealed the contents of the third part of the ‘secret’, these souls proclaim, instead, that the Church has lied and deceived the faithful – and simply reject outright the testimony of Sr Lucia herself, who said repeatedly that the document was an accurate description of what she had seen.

Similarly, for the consecration made by the Holy Father Pope John Paul in March 1984; Sr Lucia made it perfectly clear this consecration fulfilled the request of the Blessed Virgin and had been accepted by Heaven. But these souls do not accept this, as though they are in a position make a judgement on the matter and to tell Sr Lucia – and the Pope – that they were wrong.

So why does all of this matter enough that I write about it here? There are several reasons.

Firstly, such an attitude does great damage to the Church and to its unity – the work of these souls is divisive and does nothing for the good of the Church.

Secondly, it does damage to the reputation of the Blessed Virgin; for other souls, She will become ‘tainted’ in a sense, so that souls who would otherwise have developed a strong and healthy relationship with Her, will perhaps not do so now. Often these days, for example, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is equated to a caustic view of the Church and the world, to a ‘fringe element’ within a particular corner of the Church – and this is diametrically opposed to the authentic message and purpose of the Fatima appearances.

Thirdly, it places these souls in danger. Certainly, Fatima is part of ‘private revelation’ and no matter how good and holy, the faithful are not obliged to accept or practice the devotion – the Church notes only that it is ‘worthy of belief’ and leaves the rest to us, even while recommending the devotion strongly to us. But for such souls, Fatima is raised to a level above the public revelation to which we are required to submit. And for such souls, how can it be possible to believe the Church and the Popes to be liars and deceivers whilst at the same time professing unity with them and allegiance to them? And so the great danger for these souls is that their misguided and deluded views place them, inch by inch, outside the Church and ever further from the submission to the Vicar of Christ which is one of the great marks of the Catholic Church.

To be very clear – the Mother of God will never, ever, distance any soul from the Church nor from her true Shepherd. In life, Mary and Peter were very close – and in eternity, it is no different. And to be just as clear again – if our ‘devotion’ to the Blessed Virgin places us at enmity with the Church or with the Holy Father, then it comes not from God, but from the Deceiver, the Father of Lies.

Proclaiming to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin is not, in itself, a guarantee that one is so devoted, nor that one is ‘on the right path’.

As Saint Louis notes so very carefully, there are particular characteristics of any such devotion which will let us know – if our hearts and minds are open to it – whether or not we are walking the right path.

Earlier in his work, Saint Louis makes the point that an authentic and true devotion in the form he is describing is not something we take upon ourselves – rather, it is a grace to which we are called and to which we may (or may not) respond.

As for the Church herself, she too gives us a description of authentic Marian devotion – this is found in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution On The Church), from the Second Vatican Council. Together with this, we have so many beautiful Encyclicals and other documents written by so many of the Holy Fathers – and in more recent years, particularly those of Saint John Paul II.

For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort. Please God, we will find that our devotion aligns with what we read there – and if not, may the grace of God enlighten us and open our hearts and minds in all humility, so that we might change and address whatever is remiss.