Thursday, February 28, 2013

Farewell, Holy Father

Lord, source of eternal life and truth,
We ask your blessing upon Pope Benedict XVI.
May he be filled with the
spirit of courage and right judgment
as he concludes his papacy as
successor to St. Peter and Vicar of Christ.
And bless Your Church
that we may be unified
in this time of transition
as one Body of Christ
gathered in prayer and thanksgiving
throughout the world.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Second Week of Lent

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

- Luke 9: 28-36

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Chair of St. Peter

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

- Matthew 16: 13-19

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto

From uCatholic:

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war. Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism. Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. Sister Lucia died five years later. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Week of Lent

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone.'" And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" And Jesus answered him, "It is said, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

~ Luke 4: 1-13

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Happy Ash Wednesday! That doesn't sound right. Oh well, I'm going with it. I just got back from Mass, and my ash looks like a smudge. It baffles me that there are more people in church on Ash Wednesday, not a Holy Day of Obligation, than there are the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation. Well, I shouldn't be complaining about that! I hope everyone has a prayerful Lent (that works).

Here's the history of Ash Wednesday from

Although Ash Wednesday is not a Catholic holy day of obligation, it is an important part of the season of Lent. The first clear evidence of Ash Wednesday is around 960, and in the 12th century people began using palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday for ashes.

Ash Wednesday
Our Shifting Understanding of Lent

Those who work with liturgy in parishes know that some of the largest crowds in the year will show up to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Though this is not a holy day of obligation in our tradition, many people would not think of letting Ash Wednesday go by without a trip to church to be marked with an ashen cross on their foreheads. Even people who seldom come to Church for the rest of the year may make a concerted effort to come for ashes.

How did this practice become such an important part of the lives of so many believers? Who came up with the idea for this rather odd ritual? How do we explain the popularity of smudging our foreheads with ashes and then walking around all day with dirty faces? Those who do not share our customs often make a point of telling us that we have something on our foreheads, assuming we would want to wash it off, but many Catholics wear that smudge faithfully all day.

Ashes in the Bible

The origin of the custom of using ashes in religious ritual is lost in the mists of pre-history, but we find references to the practice in our own religious tradition in the Old Testament. The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26).

The prophet Isaiah, on the other hand, critiques the use of sackcloth and ashes as inadequate to please God, but in the process he indicates that this practice was well-known in Israel: "Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: that a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Is 58:5).

The prophet Daniel pleaded for God to rescue Israel with sackcloth and ashes as a sign of Israel's repentance: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dn 9:3).

Perhaps the best known example of repentance in the Old Testament also involves sackcloth and ashes. When the prophet Jonah finally obeyed God's command and preached in the great city of Nineveh, his preaching was amazingly effective. Word of his message was carried to the king of Nineveh. "When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes" (Jon 3:6).

In the book of Judith, we find acts of repentance that specify that the ashes were put on people's heads: "And all the Israelite men, women and children who lived in Jerusalem prostrated themselves in front of the temple building, with ashes strewn on their heads, displaying their sackcloth covering before the Lord" (Jdt 4:11; see also 4:15 and 9:1).

Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes" (1 Mc 3:47; see also 4:39).

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the use of sackcloth and ashes as signs of repentance: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes" (Mt 11:21, Lk 10:13).

Ashes in the History of the Church

Despite all these references in Scripture, the use of ashes in the Church left only a few records in the first millennium of Church history. Thomas Talley, an expert on the history of the liturgical year, says that the first clearly datable liturgy for Ash Wednesday that provides for sprinkling ashes is in the Romano-Germanic pontifical of 960. Before that time, ashes had been used as a sign of admission to the Order of Penitents. As early as the sixth century, the Spanish Mozarabic rite calls for signing the forehead with ashes when admitting a gravely ill person to the Order of Penitents. At the beginning of the 11th century, Abbot Aelfric notes that it was customary for all the faithful to take part in a ceremony on the Wednesday before Lent that included the imposition of ashes. Near the end of that century, Pope Urban II called for the general use of ashes on that day. Only later did this day come to be called Ash Wednesday.

At first, clerics and men had ashes sprinkled on their heads, while women had the sign of the cross made with ashes on their foreheads. Eventually, of course, the ritual used with women came to be used for men as well.

In the 12th century the rule developed that the ashes were to be created by burning palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday. Many parishes today invite parishioners to bring such palms to church before Lent begins and have a ritual burning of the palms after Mass.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

From Wikipedia:

On 11 February 1858, Bernadette Soubirous went with her sisters Toinette and Jeanne Abadie to collect some firewood and bones in order to buy some bread. After taking off her shoes and stockings to wade through the water near the Grotto of Massabielle, she said she heard the sound of two gusts of wind (coups de vent) but the trees and bushes nearby did not move. A wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto, however, did move. From the niche, or rather the dark alcove behind it, "came a dazzling light, and a white figure." She was dressed all in white, apart from the blue belt fastened around her waist and the golden yellow roses, one on each foot, the colour of her rosary. Bernadette tried to keep this a secret, but Toinette told her mother. After parental cross-examination, she and her sister received corporal punishment for their story.

St. Bernadette

Three days later, Bernadette returned to the Grotto. She had brought holy water as a test that the apparition was not of evil provenance, and demanded that if she were from God, she must stay, but if she were evil, she must go away; however, she said the vision only inclined her head gratefully when the water was cast and she made her demands.

Bernadette's companions are said to have become afraid when they saw her in ecstasy. She remained ecstatic even as they returned to the village. On 18 February, she spoke of being told by the Lady to return to the Grotto over a period of two weeks. She quoted the apparition: I promise to make you happy, not in this world, but in the next.

After that the news spread and her parents took interest. Bernadette was ordered by her parents to never go there again. It was a shock when people heard her story as it was so unlikely. She went anyway, and on 24 February, Bernadette related that the apparition asked for prayer and penitence for the conversion of sinners. The next day, she said the apparition asked her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. This made her disheveled and some of her supporters were dismayed, but this act revealed the stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages.

Although it was muddy at first, the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed. Seven of these cures were confirmed as lacking any medical explanations by Professor Verges in 1860. The first person with a “certified miracle” was a woman whose right hand had been deformed as a consequence of an accident. Several miracles turned out to be short-term improvement or even hoaxes, and Church and government officials became increasingly concerned. The government fenced off the Grotto and issued stiff penalties for anybody trying to get near the off-limits area. In the process, Lourdes became a national issue in France, resulting in the intervention of emperor Napoleon III with an order to reopen the grotto on 4 October 1858. The Church had decided to stay away from the controversy altogether.

Bernadette, knowing the local area well, managed to visit the barricaded grotto under cover of darkness. There, on 25 March, she said she was told: "I am the Immaculate Conception" ("que soy era immaculada concepciou"). On Easter Sunday, 7 April, her examining doctor stated that Bernadette, in ecstasy, was observed to have held her hands over a lit candle without sustaining harm. On 16 July, Bernadette went for the last time to the Grotto. I have never seen her so beautiful before, she reported.

The Church, faced with nationwide questions, decided to institute an investigative commission on 17 November 1858. On 18 January 1860, the local bishop finally declared that: The Virgin Mary did appear indeed to Bernadette Soubirous. These events established the Marian veneration in Lourdes, which together with Fátima, is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world, and to which between 4 and 6 million pilgrims travel annually.

In 1863, Joseph-Hugues Fabisch was charged to create a statue of the Virgin according to Bernadette's description. The work was placed in the grotto and solemnly dedicated on 4 April 1864 in presence of 20,000 pilgrims.

The veracity of the apparitions of Lourdes is not an article of faith for Catholics. Nevertheless, all recent Popes visited the Marian shine. Benedict XV, Pius XI, and John XXIII went there as bishops,Pius XII as papal delegate. Working with Le Pelerinage de Lourdes he also issued, an encyclical on the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions in 1958. John Paul II visited Lourdes three times.

The Holy Father at Lourdes
As you all know, our dear Pope Benedict XVI has retired from the papacy. I praise his humility and strength to do such a courageous thing. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for him.

P.S. As sad as I am to see him go, I am PUMPED for our new pope! I'll actually know what's going on this time!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

St. Scholastica

"Born in Nursia (Nurcia), Italy, c. 480 (?); died near Monte Cassino, Italy, c. 543.
Almost everything we know about Saint Scholastica comes from the Dialogues of
Saint Gregory the Great.

Saint Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia who founded of the
Benedictine order, was consecrated to God at a very early age but probably
continued to live in her parents' home. It is said that she was as devoted to Jesus
as she was to her brother. So, when Benedict established his monastery at Monte
Cassino, Scholastica founded a convent in nearby Plombariola, about five miles
south of Monte Cassino. The convent is said to have been under the direction of
her brother, thus she is regarded as the first Benedictine nun.

The siblings were quite close. The respective rules of their houses proscribed either
entering the other's monastery. According to Saint Gregory, they met once a year
at a house near Monte Cassino monastery to confer on spiritual matters, and were
eventually buried together, probably in the same grave. Saint Gregory says, 'so
death did not separate the bodies of these two, whose minds had ever been united
in the Lord.'

Saint Gregory tells the charming story of the last meeting of the two saints on
earth. Scholastica and Benedict had spent the day in the "mutual comfort of
heavenly talk" and with nightfall approaching, Benedict prepared to leave.
Scholastica, having a presentiment that it would be their last opportunity to see
each other alive, asked him to spend the evening in conversation. Benedict sternly
refused because he did not wish to break his own rule by spending a night away
from Monte Cassino. Thereupon, Scholastica cried openly, laid her head upon the
table, and prayed that God would intercede for her. As she did so, a sudden storm
arose. The violent rain and hail came in such a torrential downpour that Benedict
and his companions were unable to depart.

'May Almighty God forgive you, sister' said Benedict, 'for what you have done.'

'I asked a favor of you,' Scholastica replied simply, 'and you refused it. I asked it
of God, and He has granted it!'

Just after his return to Monte Cassino, Benedict saw a vision of Scholastica's soul
departing her body, ascending to heaven in the form of a dove. She died three
days after their last meeting. He placed her body in the tomb he had prepared for
himself, and arranged for his own to be placed there after his death. Her relics
were alleged by the monk Adrevald to have been translated (July 11) to a rich
silver shrine in Saint Peter's Church in Le Mans, France, which may have been
when Benedict's were moved to Fleury. In 1562, this shrine was preserved from
the Huguenots' plundering.

Some say that we should only petition God for momentously important matters.
God's love, however, is so great that we wishes to give us every good thing. He is
ever ready to hear our prayers: our prayers of praise and thanksgiving, and our
prayers of petition, repentance, and intercession. Nothing is too great or too trivial
to share with our Father. The dependent soul learns that everything we are and
have is from His bountiful goodness; when we finally learn that lesson we turn to
Him with all our hopes and dreams and needs. Saint Scholastica is obviously one
of those who learned the lesson of her own helplessness (Attwater, Benedictines,
Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).

Saint Scholastica is usually depicted in art as a habited nun, holding a crozier and
crucifix, with her brother. Sometimes she may be shown (1) with Saint Justina of
Padua, with whom she is confused though Justina was never a nun; (2) receiving
her veil from Saint Benedict; (3) her soul departing her body like a dove; (4) with a
dove at her feet or bosom; or kneeling before Saint Benedict's cell (Roeder,

She is the patroness of Monte Cassino and all Cassinese communities (Roeder).
She is invoked against storms (White)."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

St. Apollonia


The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned.

While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.

There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Sorry I didn't post this yesterday. I had no free time whatsoever.

Shrine Church

From the shrine website:

From the time he was named Bishop of La Crosse in 1994, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke reflected upon and prayed about the pastoral needs of the entire Diocese of La Crosse. He spoke about his concern for the family which has suffered so many assaults in recent times. He also expressed concern about the violence which more and more marks American culture.

In November, 1995, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, then Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, met with a small group of people to discuss his ideas for a Marian shrine.

At that time a piece of property was available in La Crosse which had formerly been a part of the Diocese of La Crosse. After learning that the property was subject to many potential environmental hazards, the idea of purchasing the property was abandoned.

Through what many believe is divine providence, a beautiful site of approximately 70 acres was gifted by the Robert Swing family to be used for the purpose of building the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 2005, the Shrine purchased additional acres adjacent to the Pilgrim Center to bring the Shrine grounds to approximately 100 acres of beautiful woodlands. The site is part of the rich history of the Coulee region.

The Swing family’s gift of this beautiful tract of land began with the desire of the late Mr. Swing, who had always hoped that the beautiful site which he had cared for so well might one day become a place to draw people closer to God. Mrs. Swing, her son Father John Swing and her daughter, Mrs. Jeanne Pavela, are carrying forward Mr. Swing’s dream.


PART of a large mural on the Narthex ceiling
Our Lady of Guadalupe on the ceiling

St. Juan Diego

Church (It's hard to believe that this was completed in 2008!)



Our Lady of Guadalupe

Baldachin detail


Sacred Heart Altar (my mom's in the red coat)

Immaculate Heart Statue

Back of Church & Pipe Organ

St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart

St. Therese of Lisieux side altar


Memorial to the Unborn
I regret that I couldn't go closer to this touching memorial, but the snow was up to my ankles and I was wearing only sneakers! I did get a miniature statue of the Mother of the Unborn statue (you can slightly see to the right) at the gift shop though!

Our Lady of Good Counsel Votive Chapel 

Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Good Counsel (This window is larger than
it appears)

Votive candle pyramid

Our Lady of Knock

Our Lady of Fatima statue (believe it or not this is made
out of wood!)

 A very friendly volunteer in the chapel told us all about the stained glass windows and the story of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima...if only I could remember all she told me!

I was so glad to visit this wonderful shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe! I'd love to go back in the spring/summer time so I could see more of it, as some of it had been covered by snow, an example being the stations of the cross and Rosary walk.

For more (and better) pictures of the shrine click here.

Let's see. I've visited Our Lady of Good Help and now Our Lady of Guadalupe...Holy Hill here I come!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Wrightstown at State Dance

Right now, I'm at a hotel in La Crosse, bored out of my mind, with nothing to do. So, I'm going to say congrats to my sister and the rest of the Wrightstown High School dance team as they prepare to compete for state. Good Luck!

PS: Tomorrow morning before the competition my mom and I are going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe right here in La Crosse! I'll post on that tomorrow.