Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Today is the 96th anniversary of the first time that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three peasant children named Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia in Fatima, Portugal.  On that day, the Virgin Mary asked the children to return to the same place on the 13th day of every month for the next six months and to say the rosary every day “to bring peace to the world and an end to war.”

This was the first in a series of apparitions that came at a time of great tumult in the world – many of the world’s nations were engaged in the Great War, which would later be named World War I, and in Moscow, Vladimir Lenin was in preparations to set in place the Russian revolution, preparations that would have a very particular impact on the remainder of the 20th century.  In the subsequent apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart, make sacrifices for sinners, and to continue to pray the rosary every day for peace in the world.

The apparitions to the three children concluded in October 1917, when the Miracle of the Sun occurred.  Up to 300,000 had gathered near Fatima and according to many of the witnesses, the sun appeared to spin in the sky (click the link for testimonies from eyewitnesses to the event).

This day also marks the 32nd anniversary of the assassination attempt on the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II.  John Paul was greeting crowds in St. Peter’s Square when he was shot at close range by Mehmet Ali Agca.  The Holy Father was hit four times and one of the bullets missed a major artery in his heart by a fraction of an inch.  John Paul credited the Virgin Mary with saving his life, saying, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” Later, John Paul presented the bishop of Fatima with the bullet, which to this day remains in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

For more information on the assassination attempt on John Paul II and its connection to Our Lady of Fatima, RomeReports.com has put together a helpful video:

Why not take a moment today to thank Our Lady for her intercession in protecting our Holy Father those many years ago?


New Saints!

On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized 802 new saints!

Their names are:

  • Saint Laura Montoya, Colombia’s first saint, who lived in the late 19th century as a spiritual mother to the indigenous peoples of the region
  • Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, known as Mother Lupita, who dedicated her life to helping the sick and also assisted Mexican Catholics in avoiding persecution during the government’s enactment of anti-clerical laws during the 1920s
  • The Martyrs of Otranto, a group of over 800 Italian laymen who, when their citadel in southern Italy was overrun by a Turkish invasion, refused to convert to Islam and killed

Saint Laura, Saint Maria, and the Holy Martyrs of Otranto, pray for us!

Viva la Madonna! Long live the Mother of God!


Tony Gentile/Reuters

In the Catholic Church, the month of May has traditionally been a month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  It is during this month that priests, bishops, and even the Pope himself encourage and highlight the importance of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives and our need of her prayers.

It is clear that Pope Francis has a particular love of the Mother of God and wishes for us to love her too. Just last weekend, he traveled to the largest basilica in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. Mary Major, to pray the rosary with the faithful.  This is his second visit to this basilica since he was elected pope – the Holy Father came to St. Mary Major the day after his election to ask Our Lady’s intercession for his new pontificate.

More From Catholic News Service:

Mary is a mother who helps Christians grow, face the difficulties of life and use their freedom to make lasting commitments, Pope Francis said. Marking Catholics’ traditional celebration of May as the month of Mary, Pope Francis led the recitation of the rosary May 4 at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. After the service, he went to the steps of the basilica to greet thousands of people who were unable to get inside, and he asked them to say three Hail Marys “for me, because I need it.” He also led the crowd in chanting “Viva la Madonna” (Long live the mother of God). At the beginning and end of the service, Pope Francis venerated the basilica’s famous icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people, in the above photograph). In a reflection after the recitation of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, Pope Francis said there are three primary ways in which Mary, as a mother with “great and tender love,” promotes the healthy growth of Christians.

On Monday, May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will consecrate his pontificate to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why not say three Hail Mary’s today, for Pope Francis but also that your love for the Virgin Mary might increase each day?

Papal Resignation Roundup

Well, folks, it’s been quite the week.  Besides our annual entrance into Lent on Wednesday, Monday also saw the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – the first pope to do this in centuries.  As we look to the end of Benedict’s pontificate, the “interregnum” (literally, between reigns), the conclave, and, finally, the election of a new pope, it promises to be an exciting month for the Church and for the world.

We’ll do what we can to keep you updated on news as it develops.  To start, here are a few great articles, videos, and general quotes to consider if you’re in need of playing catch-up on resignation news:

In Benedict’s Own Words:

Reaction from bishops in the United States:

Remembering Benedict’s Legacy

What’s next?  
The Church awaits word on a conclave date, which is to be determined by the cardinals who will elect the next pope.

What should I do? 
This is a unique time in the life of the Church.  The best thing any of us can do is to pray very much for the Holy Father, the cardinal electors who will participate in the conclave, and the next man who will be Successor to St. Peter, known, at this moment, only to God.  If you are interested, join us for a rosary in the St. Paul’s Chapel at 8:40PM on Monday nights, starting on February 18th and ending upon the election of a new pope.  

Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us and pray for the Pope! 

The Pope’s final public Mass: Ash Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica

Yesterday, our beloved Holy Father celebrated his last public Mass as Pope – fittingly, at the main altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, below which lie the mortal remains of St. Peter, the first Pope.

We’ll be sure to share selections from his homily later this week, as soon as it is translated into English.

There were many moving moments in this final public liturgy celebrated by the Holy Father.  One such moment was a short address at the conclusion of Mass by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See, who thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his great gift of his life to the Church:

As Mass concluded and the choir began a beautiful rendition of Palestrina’s “Tu es Petrus (You are Peter)”, the Holy Father kissed the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica a final time and began his recessional down the main aisle, to the sound of thunderous applause from the faithful present.  The recessional in its entirety is a bit long (seven minutes), but a historic moment to watch:


Catechismal Crusader : Lent and Penance

This week we celebrate our third issue of The Catechismal Crusader. We have come a long way and would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers for their continued support and generosity.  Today we also solemnly celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.  In my expedition through the Catechism I found that while Lent is not discussed in any particular detail, it is most directly related to conversion and penance.  As we begin this new Lenten season,  I hope these paragraphs help highlight the goal of our fasting, almsgiving, and prayer and better prepare us to celebrate a blessed Easter.

‎”Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life…” – Pope Benedict XVI

1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

1430 Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.23

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).24

1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,31 which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity “which covers a multitude of sins.”32

1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,33 by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.34

Looking for a prayerful Lenten experience?  Be sure to check out the Grad/YP Lenten retreat

What was it like to be in the room when the Pope resigned?

Curious about what it was like in the room when the Holy Father announced his resignation?  Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, was there when the announcement was made and recently sat down in an interview to describe what it was like.  He also shares words of wisdom about what this means for the Church:

Oremus pro Pontifice! (Let us pray for the Pope!)

By now you have probably heard that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has chosen to resign from the papacy, effective on February 28th.  Yesterday in Rome he spoke to a gathering of cardinals, where he made the announcement in Latin (translated from the Vatican’s website):

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.  And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

While this announcement may evoke in us an emotional – perhaps even confused – response, let us trust in Christ and in His Providence and Plan for His Bride, the Church.  As we seek to trust in God’s plan, let us especially offer many prayers for our Holy Father, the 117 cardinal electors who will elect a new pope, and for the next successor who will shepherd the Church.

One prayer that we can consider using is called the Oratio pro summo Pontifice – simply, the Prayer for the Pope:

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies (Psalm 40:3).

Say one Our Father, one Hail Mary

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant N, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Still have questions about the Holy Father’s resignation, or perhaps questions about what comes next?  Join us for Mustard Seed, our weekly large group gathering, on Thursday, February 21st for a brief lesson in Conclaves 101.  Fr. Eric Sternberg will join us to provide some insight into what is a conclave and what will it look like, as well as provide answers to any questions you might have.

As we near the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict and usher in a new age in the life of the Church, let us keep in mind the wise words of the Holy Father, some of the first words he spoke to us as Pope, at his installation Mass almost eight years ago:

My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

The Catechismal Crusader : The Eucharist

Another Wednesday calls us to once more bravely embark on our expedition through the Catechism, our crusade to learn more about the faith, that we might become the best Christians we can, saints.  We turn our  focus this week to the Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life”.  In sorting through this section of the Catechism, I found it very difficult to limit the number of paragraphs to include, so please don’t hesitate to read more of this article here.

What follows are highlights from the Catechism (sort of like a catechetical Sportcenter without the commentary) .


1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”135

1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”137

1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.185 “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”186

1370 To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.

1392 What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh “given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,”229 preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.

1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is “given up for us,” and the blood we drink “shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:

1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,”248 than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.”249

The gift of our Lord in Eucharistic adoration is a wonderful opportunity to foster a greater love and appreciation for Jesus as the “Bread of Life”.  Adoration is offered at St. Paul’s from 8:00-8:55 AM Monday-Friday and 6-7 PM Friday.  Just down the street Holy Redeemer offers perpetual adoration all day, every day.


The Pope’s Wednesday Audience: How does the Bible describe God?

Each Wednesday, thousands flock either to St. Peter’s Square or Pope Paul VI Hall (depending on the weather) for what is called the Pope’s general audience.  At this gathering the Holy Father will usually give a short talk, or catechesis, on a matter of faith.  Quite often, these talks are part of a larger series focused on a particular matter of faith, morals, or doctrine.  For example, early in the pontificate of Blessed Pope John Paul II, his Wednesday audience talks were part of a larger teaching, which today is heralded as the Theology of the Body, God’s design for human sexuality.

At today’s General Audience, the Pope continued his catechesis on the Creed, and specifically discussed the Bible’s description of God.  If you’re ever been curious as to how Pope Benedict XVI sounds when he speaks in English, check out the clip below!